Christine Tongue: Do we really live in a safe area?

Where cars parked on pavements pose more danger than burglars

Me and the police force have had a mixed relationship. Being charged at by shield wielding cops while demonstrating for trade union recognition back in the 1970s changed my image of them for ever.

And in my dotage I’ve had a community copper ask me not to give out anti-war leaflets outside Tesco.

He had to give up when neither he nor his boss, who I asked him to phone, could think of a law I might have been breaking.

But I’ve been grateful for the police as well over the years: calling in after I’ve been burgled three times, arresting the drunk who ran over my partner, listening when I told them about the kids vandalising cars in the car park.

Oh, and laughing when I told them I’d accidentally hit a flasher over the head with my umbrella.

As a stick user with friends in wheelchairs I recently put on my disability activist hat and went to find out what they’re up to locally now.

So I put a casserole in the oven and popped over the road to the Broadstairs NEM (Neighbourhood Engagement Meeting) where the local police are supposed to answer residents’ questions on crime, parking, antisocial behaviour and why you never see a policeman on our streets except in Folk Week.

Some nice policemen and women muttered quietly from the platform as if they were a bit scared of us – the audience was much louder – about how we live in a really safe area, but please report worrying behaviour when you see it.

But don’t use 999, now you have to ring 101. 999 is for really serious stuff.

This was news to me!

So you have to judge how bad things are – murder or someone giving you a hard stare – before you decide which number to ring?

Well, as the audience pointed out, there are drawbacks to 101.

Apparently you can wait a long time to get through to talk to someone and it costs money to ring it! And they won’t rush out and deal with what you’re reporting, or even get back to you for ages.

I felt very out of touch!

“You can report online as well”, said a helpful cop, “or go to your local library if you don’t have a computer.”

So you see kids smashing wing mirrors in your street one evening, wait till the library’s open, get the bus to it, find out how to use the computer, report what you saw and wait for a reply while the kids have 24 hours of fun trashing cars!

I asked if we could have a police station in Broadstairs again, but apparently we live in a really safe area so it’s not a justified expense.

The local cops may think this is a “safe” area – but for disabled people it’s not at all.

Cars are parked on our pavements and block our dropped kerbs so wheelchair users have to use the roads with the traffic. And the roads are full of pot holes because our county council only repairs ones that are reported to them.

Our pavements are the most wonky and badly repaired I’ve come across – and cars using them makes them worse.

All this actually makes Broadstairs a very unsafe, downright hazardous place for disabled and elderly people like me.

Message to the local cops: a burglar will only steal my electronic gadgets – a blocked pavement may break my bones.

And I can’t afford to break any bones.


  1. The law states that outside of London it is legal to park on the pavement as long as it doesn’t cause obstruction.

    This is the biggest load of tosh in relation to the laws of the road. The whole point of the road is so that there is a space for cars and other vehicles of that type to access points a, b and so forth. The pavement exists for pedestrians. Many a time I have seen a car or a van on the pavement and complained to be told “it’s not illegal because it’s not an obstruction.” It boils my blood that cars are encroaching on the pavement more and more and something needs to be done about.

    And the less said about the Thanet police, the better.

  2. The whole of Thanet–the whole of the country even—is full of buildings that used to be Police Stations.Even small villages had a Police Officer living in the Police House with a little office at the front. Yet, nowadays, we are told that we “can’t afford it”.Though, as a country, we are much richer than in the past. But the money is in the wrong hands, secreted away in Switzerland or Belize or the Isle of Man, and no recent government had the bottle to demand a proper tax system without devious avoidance schemes. Forget Brexit being the economic miracle we all need. We just need a proper, enforced, tax system. Then we wouldn’t need to worry if Police Officers were anywhere near. Because they would be!!

  3. I wholeheartedly agree that we have a problem with cars parked on the pavement – and it is Thanet-wide, not just Broadatairs.

    The problems are two-fold. A lot of drivers are too lazy and selfish to walk anywhere (including those who park on the zig-zags outside schools). There is also a lack of parking enforcement by TDC (it is not a problem that Police deal with).

    I am at a loss to understand why TDC does not employ sufficient Enforcement Officers. It is a money making exercise to boost TDC’s ailing coffers which is totally ignored.

    Every year I request that Enforcement Officers attend areas around Margate seafront during the summer to deal with cars that are triple-parked on the pavement as well as on double yellows in the road. Pedestrians, families with children and pushchairs as well as those in wheelchairs are all forced into the remaining roadway where cars from both directions are trying to pass.

    Throughout the year, pavements in residential areas are blocked every night with cars whose drivers seem to think the pavement outside their house or flat is part of their personal domain. Again, this is a revenue stream that is being ignored by TDC.

  4. I have a drive but no dropped kerb. Living in a rented house, I cannot justify the £1000 cost to provide one. I am also disabled, with a blue badge. I applied to TDC for a disabled bay. I was told this would cost me £265 and not for my sole use as anyone with a Blue Badge can park in it.I feel discriminated against for being disabled I can pay for others to use what I have paid for, how fair is that ?I find vans, cars etc outside my home and have great difficulty carrying shopping. Sometimes I have had to leave frozen food in my boot because I had to park too far away to carry my shopping because of cars parked outside my home although I realise I do not own the road and they are not doing anything wrong. Life woukld be simpler and easier with a Disabled Bay for my use.

  5. Yes, we do live in a safe place; but it could be safer.
    I wholeheartedly agree with comments about parking on pavements. They are intended as a refuge for pedestrians, not as free overspill car parks.
    Although it is not illegal (outside London) to park on the pavement, bizarrely it *is* illegal to drive on them:
    “If any person shall wilfully ride upon any footpath or causeway by the side of any road made or set apart for the use or accommodation of foot passengers; or shall wilfully lead or drive any horse, ass, sheep, mule, swine, or cattle or carriage of any description, or any truck or sledge, upon any such footpath or causeway; or shall tether any horse, ass, mule, swine, or cattle, on any highway, so as to suffer or permit the tethered animal to be thereon.”(Clause 32 of the 1835 Highways Act).
    As for generally feeling safe: yes, I don’t feel that there’s any part of my neighbourhood that I’d choose to avoid (there might be one or two I’d choose not to go to!)

  6. Funny that the police would worry about anti-war leaflets, while I have seen in the last year at Tesco Westwood the RAC being regularly allowed to set up shop & harass everybody going in to sign up to them & have homeless people outside begging people for money. They don’t seem to have an issue with people living in shop/bank doorways for years either. Then again this is a country that feted & continues to praise dictator lover & arms dealer Thatcher, while portraying Hilda Murrell as a communist threat to the nation.

    • Yes weird isn’t it? It was Tesco sent for the police actually. Poor community copper looked very upset when he saw the old lady with the stick and a handful of leaflets! And he was very sweet and apologetic about not really knowing why he was there.

    • Believe it or not, the person who is often resident in the doorway of Lloyds Bank in Margate is there with the Bank’s blessing . . .

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