As we head towards the start of a new year and a new decade there are some important Thanet events taking place in 2020. These include the decision on the Development Consent Order at Manston airfield, the opening of Ramsgate’s crisis café and the annual setting of Thanet council’s budget.
A decision is expected from the Secretary of State on January 18 over the development consent order for the Manston airport site.
The Planning Inspectorate examining panel, led by Kelvin McDonald, examined the bid earlier this year, made by Riveroak Strategic Partners to acquire the site and create a cargo hub and associated aviation business.
The land was owned by Stone Hill Park, which had submitted a planning application to create up to 3,700 homes, business and leisure and associated infrastructure. SHP sold the site to RSP subsidiary RiverOak MSE Ltd for £16.5 million in July, just days before the hearings concluded.
The sale contained a clause which means RSP cannot sell the land until 2029 unless SHP agree.
DCO approval is still needed for the cargo hub project, an issue which has split the isle. Supporters of the plan say it will bring jobs and economic benefits but campaigners against the proposals say it will result in pollution, noise and a loss of tourist trade – particularly in Ramsgate which is under the flight path.
During the hearings representations were made by a wide variety of organisations, including Thanet council and Historic England, campaign groups including Save Manston Airport association, Supporters of Manston Airport, No Night Flights and Nethercourt Action Group, numerous individuals and both Manston museums.
The decision letter and Recommendation Report will be published on the Planning Inspectorate Manston project page once a decision has been made.
The Isle of Thanet News is also awaiting confirmation from the Department for Transport that a deal to use the site as a Brexit lorry park has now been terminated.
Last January a special development order designating the Manston airport site for use as a lorry park to cope with possible post-Brexit jams at the Port of Dover came into effect.
The order ‘augmented’ the deal to use Manston as a short-term solution for Operation Stack which was first struck with former site owners Stone Hill Park in August 2015 following a Summer of disruption due to French strikes and growing migrant camps in Calais.
The new order extended the deal until December 31, 2020
The UK is now scheduled to leave the European Union on January 31.
On December 20, following the Conservative victory at the General Election eight days earlier, MPs backed plans for the withdrawal.
They voted 358 to 234 – a majority of 124 – in favour of the EU (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill.
The Bill proceeds to a Committee of the whole House January 6-7, and Lords amendments and Third Reading on Thursday, January 8, 2020.
The Government first introduced the Withdrawal Agreement Bill in October. This progressed to a Second Reading, in which the programme motion was defeated. The Bill fell when Parliament was dissolved for the 2019 General Election.
The new Withdrawal Agreement Bill is similar to the October 2019 Bill but three clauses and one Schedule have been removed, and five clauses have been added. The changes to the Bill include:
- removing MPs’ approval role in relation to the Government’s negotiating mandate and removing enhanced Parliamentary approval process for any future relationship treaty subsequently negotiated with the EU
- removing additional procedural protections for workers’ rights
- prohibiting any UK Minister from agreeing to an extension of the transition or implementation period
- removing the Government’s existing obligations to unaccompanied children seeking asylum in the EU who have family members in the UK
Ramsgate Port and Harbour feasibility plan
A feasibility report by consultant WSP UK Limited is due to be presented to Thanet council early in the new year.
The study proposing future uses of Ramsgate Port and Harbour will look at ideas including a hotel and conference centre, berthing for small cruise ships, waterfront homes and the possibility of a maritime village
It will look at several possible uses to generate income.
The first area is commercial, which would consider extending current industrial uses of the port – such as Brett aggregates; making more use of the sea and renewable energy facilities already used by London Array; introducing advanced manufacturing and offices. More artist studios and workshops and specific marine related retail such as yacht chandlery will also be examined.
A residential plan will look at waterfront homes, and leisure uses such as space for larger yachts than can presently be accommodated in Ramsgate, hotel and conference facilities, berthing for small cruise ships and shops.
Ideas for a maritime village development will look at mixed use development with waterfront homes, shops, restaurants and cafes and commercial units.
At a full council meeting in February Thanet council pledged some £40,000 for the study.
It followed the decision the same month to ditch £500,000 funding to keep Ramsgate port in readiness for a ferry operation following the Seaborne debacle and axe a further £130,000, totalling £630,000 (or £730,000 in a full year) from port spending.
The study aims to find ways to stop the haemorrhaging of cash from the port side of operations.
Ramsgate Port has racked up total losses of £22 million since 2010. The amount includes £3.4million in unpaid berthing fees from bankrupt TransEuropa Ferries and £1.4 million of compensation paid to live animal exporters following a High Court order. However, the total paid in compensation rose to around £5million.
The study is phase one with phase two being the drawing up of a master plan.
Judicial Review decision on hyper-acute stroke unit plans
A judicial review was heard in December at the High Court challenging a decision to close acute stroke services in hospitals including Margate’s QEQM.
A decision is expected in January.
Two groups, Save Our NHS in Thanet and Thanet Stroke Campaign, are fighting the plans made by a Joint Committee of Clinical Commissioning Groups’ (JCCCG) to remove acute services from six hospitals in favour of three specialised units for Kent and Medway.
The two cases were heard together by the same judge although they were brought on behalf of separate claimants.
A decision on the location for three hyper-acute stroke units (HASUs) across Kent & Medway was agreed by the Joint Committee of Clinical Commissioning Groups (JCCCG) in February.
The HASUs will be at Darent Valley Hospital, Maidstone Hospital and William Harvey Hospital. Acute services at Margate’s QEQM Hospital will be removed with Thanet patients needing to travel to Ashford for acute services.
Kent and Medway stroke consultants say larger, specialist units in other parts of the country have been shown to improve outcomes for people who have had a stroke.
But SONIK and Thanet resident Marion Kepple, who is the claimant for the Thanet Stroke Campaign, have challenged that decision.
Thanet council budget
The budget is due to be approved by full council on February 6.
Thanet council faces a budget black hole of ‘upwards of £1.5 million’ for the financial year April 2020-March 2021.
The shortfall comes amid plunging income from Government. The Revenue Support Grant to Thanet from central government was £97,000 for the 2019-20 financial year. In 2018-19 it was £809,000 and in 2017-18 the grant stood at £1.446m. This is compared to £6.636m in 2013-14.
A one year settlement has been made for 2020-21 at the same rate as last year. Plans to end the government revenue support grant from 2020 have now been rolled forward to 2021
Thanet Parkway railway station
Cabinet members at Kent County Council will make a decision on funding the proposed station in January.
Council leaders will examine results from a 300 person survey in the catchment areas of Thanet and parts of Dover, alongside the planning consultation.
The station has spiralled in cost to £34.51million. The original estimated cost of the Parkway project was £11.2 million but a meeting of the SE England Local Enterprise Partnership (SELEP) revealed that sum has now tripled.
The hike in costs means the project will now be reviewed by the SE England Local Enterprise Partnership (SELEP) – which administers Local Growth Fund cash – in February 2020 with a Full Business Case required to confirm that the project “still presents value for money.” If full funding is not in place SELEP may withdraw its contribution.
The project funding package includes £14million Local Growth Fund, £2m from Thanet District Council with a grant agreement currently being drafted, £700,000 from East Kent Spatial Development Company and the remaining funding of £17.81 million from Kent County Council.
Concerns raised by councillors include questions over why Thanet needs an eighth railway station, passenger safety at an unmanned station and the danger of more building on agricultural land due to the expectation of the station creating demand for new homes.
In order to secure the SELEP money, KCC will need to agree to the project by the end of January 2020.
The business case for the scheme will be assessed by the SELEP Independent Technical Evaluator before any Local Growth Fund is released.
East Kent Housing
A decision on whether to ditch East Kent Housing services for managing council-owned properties will be made in February following a string of failures by the organisation.
This month the board of East Kent Housing, which manages local authority properties in east Kent, was dismissed and replaced by the chief executives of Thanet, Canterbury, Dover and Folkestone & Hythe councils.
The action came on the heels of revelations earlier this year that hundreds of council property tenants across east Kent had been awaiting gas safety certificates due to overdue Landlord Gas Safety Register assessments.
It then emerged that there were also grave concerns over potential further issues with electrical certification, lifts, fire safety and legionella testing.
In addition there was the possibility of a criminal case being brought due to contractor P&R overpayments to which could ‘constitute fraud.
A resident consultation over plans to axe arrangements with East Kent Housing has taken place.
Thanet council will review the results and in February councillors will make a decision over whether to take the management of council housing back under authority control
The first phase of a £10million new build project at Hartsdown will be completed in February with the second phase scheduled for completion in September.
The school has is knocking down five of its teaching blocks to create a new school building and sports hall extension.
The first phase has been the demolition of the dining, library and humanities blocks. This is the site of the main build of a new two storey and part three store teaching block.
The new site will have art rooms on the upper floors to obtain natural daylight, engineering spaces on the ground floor and food technology adjacent to the dining hall.
The first floor of the teaching block will accommodate the majority of standard classrooms such as ICT and graphics.
The second phase will be demolition of the music block and one storey buildings at the rear to create a Sports Hall block with new changing rooms, an activity studio, music rooms and a classroom providing additional teaching support.
Ramsgate crisis café
The doors of a crisis café in Ramsgate are expected to open in March as part of a raft of improvements to mental health services in Thanet.
The facility is possible as part of a package of measures following a successful £4million bid by the Kent and Medway Sustainability and Transformation Partnership (STP).
The Isle of Thanet News revealed the successful bid, made during a mental health summit at the Winter Gardens, in September.
The initial calls for the crisis café were made by Thanet mental health support group Speak UpCIC and publicised by The Isle of Thanet News in 2018.
This year the call was renewed following the tragic deaths of Thanet men who had been unable to access mental health services.
Family and friends of Ben Stone, and his brother Lee Thrumble, Marc Wood and Paul Connell, organised the highly successful Football United fundraiser and were among those at a meeting in Ramsgate in July organised by councillor Karen Constantine in response to the tragedies.
At that meeting a panel, including Thanet doctor Jihad Malasi, pledged to find ways to improve services for Thanet residents.
The meeting heard harrowing accounts of lost lives, struggles to access mental health services, family members at tipping point as they try to help their loved ones and huge gaps in care provision.
East Kent’s clinical commissioning groups – responsible for local health services – have now released a timeline for investment to improve mental health services across east Kent.
A Ramsgate safe haven – revealed by The Isle of Thanet News in August – is also earmarked for the same opening date, although a venue is yet to be confirmed. Other improvements include increased support for GP surgeries with mental health expertise by January 2020, peer support crisis groups in Thanet and Dover before the end of the year and improvements to psychological services and community mental health support, particularly reduced waiting times for referrals.
Invicta House, Margate
Long awaited fire safety improvements at the The block, which is managed by East Kent Housing on behalf of Thanet council, has been hit by numerous fires over the past three years, mostly in the bin chutes but also in the stairwells.
Fire safety works due to have been carried out in June and July at Invicta House flats in Margate were delayed due to the need to reappoint a contractor. Works are now underway and are due to be completed by March 2020.
Some £900,000 was earmarked for fire safety works at the isle six authority-owned blocks in Thanet council’s 2018/19 budget.
This followed detailed fire safety reports where a number of enhanced fire safety works were identified.
Revised risk assessments were carried out following the Grenfell Tower tragedy in 2017 and additional fire safety works were identified.
Some works began in 2018 but a further £810,000 was required to complete the recommendations. This year another £100,000 was required to continue with non-urgent fire safety recommendations.
Works at the 14 floor block in Millmead Road are to include upgrades for the communal fire alarm system and smoke detectors. A sprinkler system has been installed in the bin room.
The works can’t come soon enough for residents who have endured numerous lift breakdowns and other issues, leading one to brand the building a ;death trap.’
The eight clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) in Kent and Medway, which are responsible for local medical care services, have been given conditional approval to merge and form a single CCG from April 1, 2020.
Health chiefs say the move will save time, money and effort, freeing up GP time to see patients, and staff and GP time to develop new ways of working. The aim is also to make best use of staff and funds to meet rising demand.
GPs in each of the existing eight CCGs across Kent and Medway voted for the merger which they say will have benefits including improved staff recruitment and retention.
The Governing Body will be led by a GP majority, with one GP from each of the existing CCG areas for at least the first two years. After 2022, the Governing Body will review how GPs are elected to it, linked to geographic communities of GPs, to ensure fair representation.
Dreamland 100th anniversary celebrations
Dreamland will mark 100 years of the amusement park in 2020. While a leisure venue has existed on the Margate site since the 1870s, it was not until 1920 that John Henry Iles transformed it into the pleasure garden and amusement park Dreamland – and opened the famous Scenic Railway to the public.
A series of large-scale events, new art commissions and festival fun is being planned for the amusement park in 2020 to mark the landmark anniversary. Acts already announced include Mike Skinner (DJ set), DJ Spoony, Faithless (DJ Set), The Levellers and a huge line-up for the Soundcrash Funk and Soul Weekender in May.
A decision is still to be made on whether sell the Dreamland freehold to operator Sands Heritage Ltd (SHL) .
SHL currently holds a 99 year lease but the proposal would see the firm, under hedgefund Arrowgrass, buy the freehold.
On August 1, Thanet council Cabinet members approved in principle the sale of the freehold for the entire Dreamland site -including the council car park– subject to agreement from external funders regarding the removal of ongoing grant obligations upon the council, and subject to legal advice.
The sale, one of the biggest asset disposals in Thanet council’s history, would also include the TDC restored cinema and Sunshine Café building, containing the ‘Dreamland Bars’, later famous for being the ‘Bali Hai’. The terms would include a restriction prohibiting housing development at the site for 10 years to tackle any possible planning application for development outside of leisure uses.
Thanet Local Plan
Thanet council is due to adopt the 2011-2031 Local Plan this Spring.
The authority is currently consulting on proposed modifications until Monday, January 27, 2020.
Thanet’s draft Local Plan 2011-2031 – a blueprint for housing and infrastructure across the isle – has been progressing with hearings held by the Planning Inspectorate between April and July following submission in October 2018.
The plan sets out how much development is needed to support the future population and economy. Transport, employment and infrastructure -such as roads, schools and GP surgeries – are also examined.
Some changes (referred to as ‘modifications’) are now being proposed by the Planning Inspectors to the draft Local Plan – including a reduction in the number of houses built over the next five years and the setting of a policy for Gypsy and Traveller accommodation.
Some of the main modifications include: A new policy on the review of the Local Plan; Recognition of the DCO process on the Manston airport site; Amendment to the affordable housing policy. Reducing the number of homes to be built to 3,000 in the next five years – the draft plan had indicated 6,000 homes to be built between 2021 and 2026 – and a policy to set out the need for Gypsy and Traveller accommodation
The list of proposed ‘main modifications’ can be found at https://www.thanet.gov.uk/info-pages/consultations/ with a representation form for responses. All representations made will be taken into account by the Inspectors and included in their Report and Recommendations. The Inspectors have already considered comments submitted between August and October 2018.
Hard copies of the main modifications and related documents can be found at the Thanet Gateway. The consultation closes at 5pm on January 27.
This marks one of the final stages of the Examination of the Local Plan 2011-2031, which ends with the Planning Inspectorate’s report to council, which will set out any further modifications that the plan requires.
It has been a bumpy ride with a rejection of the original plan in January 2019 resulting in the collapse of the then ruling UKIP party at Thanet council. The new plan resulted in the re-allocation of 2,500 homes to greenfield sites in the villages, Margate and Westwood as part of a pledge to retain aviation use at Manston airport. The authority also had ‘intervention’ with the Government closely monitoring progress due to its failure to put in place a valid local plan.
The council expects to be in a position to adopt the Local Plan 2011-2031 in the Spring.
Isle tree planting scheme
More than 1,200 trees will be planted at six sites in Thanet in a £1million project headed up by new group The Isle of Thanet Trees and Woods Initiative (ITTWI)
The ITTWI has successfully secured £525,000 from the Urban Tree Challenge Fund – overseen by the Forestry Commission – plus £100,000 funding support from RiverOak Strategic Partners. alongside £430,000 labour ‘in kind,’ from volunteers in the isle groups making a total project value of £1,055,000.
The group is made up of St Anthony’s School teacher and Thanet Community Forest School founder Luke Evans, Colourful Margate lead Stephanie Nsom; Peter Hasted of the Sunken Garden Society; Steve Darling of Dane Valley Woods and Thanet councillor Ash Ashbee. The group is supported by isle volunteers, businesses and community organisations.
The ground-breaking ITTWI project will plant trees across the six sites at Dane Valley Woods; George Park; Dane Park; The Sunken Gardens Westbrook;Dane Valley Green and the Dane Valley Woods old landfill site, resulting in a significant positive environmental and health impact. It is thought to be the biggest tree planting project to ever take place in Thanet.
The funding means in excess of 1,200 trees of various varieties and maturity will be planted over a period of two years and maintained for their early years.
The official ITTWI launch event will take place at Dane Park on January 11 and BBC’s Frances Tophill will plant the first tree.
80th anniversary of the Battle of Britain, Operation Dynamo and the Ramsgate Blitz
Westgate will mark 80 years since 1940 rationing, evacuation, town bombing and Battle of Britain with events in January, June and September.
in January Westgate will remember the harsh winter of 1940, as people learnt to cope with the black-out and the first stage of rationing amongst other things.
In June they will mark one of Westgate’s most historic days, when the school children were evacuated on Sunday 1st June 1940 to Staffordshire, leaving Westgate that evening like Hamlyn after the visit of the Pied Piper.
September marks the bombing of Westgate in July 1940 and the Battle of Britain of August and September, fought in the skies above Westgate, which suffered the double threat of proximity to RAF Manston, one of Britain’s foremost Fighter Stations, and being on the flight path to London, the target of the Luftwaffe.
At Manston see the iconic Battle of Britain Spitfire and Hurricane, alongside personal memorabilia, whilst at Ramsgate’s Royal Harbour see a surviving ‘little ship’ Sundowner used to help rescue 80,000 soldiers from Dunkirk. Hear about Ramsgate, the heaviest bombed seaside town in the country on a Ramsgate Blitz walk.
£2million remodelling project at Turner Contemporary
The go-ahead to undertake legal agreements connected to a £1.5million grant for work on Turner Contemporary have been approved by Kent County Council.
The county council money, plus a £495,000 contribution from Arts Council England, will be used to reconfigure and update Turner Contemporary (TC) and the Rendezvous site in Margate.
The project, which will be carried out in two phases, in January and then major works in September, will include the creation of an 86 space, fee charged car park to bring income into the gallery.
Cash will be used for a finishing kitchen – to cater for events and conferences- and shop upgrades, install LED lighting to reduce running costs, carry out a broadband upgrade and introduce AV equipment .
There will also be automatic front and gallery doors to improve access, and increased and upgraded toilets, new signs, a CCTV upgrade and external storage.
Calling the original KCC decision to go ahead with the project “brave and bold,” Cllr Hohler said it had been a huge success with 3million visitors -double the predicted yearly numbers – generating £70million in the local economy and being the driver for 40 new businesses in the Old Town and Cliftonville.
KCC’s Corporate Director Growth, Environment and Transport Barbara Cooper told councillors investment had originally been proposed at £6million to create a new wing at Turner Contemporary.
This scheme has been dropped in favour of the £2million project.
Councillors have approved going ahead with a Memorandum of Understanding and Collaboration Agreement with Turner Contemporary, the RNLI, Margate Yacht Club and Arts Council England.
Margate RNLI and Margate Yacht Club both use the Rendezvous site.
Margate Yacht Club recently put its Fort Hill property up for sale with plans to reinvest into facilities.
Margate RNLI has been investigating options for a new base.
The RNLI will be served notice on the site, at latest when the lease expires in April 2020, for the current boathouse which is based behind Turner Contemporary.
The current site will become untenable as Turner Contemporary carries out the expansion plans RNLI investigatory works at the harbour were carried out last year.
The 150th anniversary of the death of author Charles Dickens
Charles Dickens, Broadstairs’ most famous visitor, died on June 9, 1870. It was whilst staying in Broadstairs that he wrote parts of his novels Nicholas Nickleby, Oliver Twist and Barnaby Rudge. The Dickens House Museum, was the home of Miss Mary Pearson Strong who was the inspiration for Miss Betsey Trotwood in David Copperfield.
Ramsgate Conservation Area
2020 marks the 50th anniversary of Ramsgate’s conservation area status. The area was designated on January 16, 1970, with further extensions 1980 – 2006.
The main conservation area, fro the 1970 designation, takes in most of the town centre from the listed buildings near the top of the High Street (including the 17th Century Grade II listed Sylvian hotel), to The Grange in the west
(designed by Augustus Pugin, one of Britain’s most influential architects who also designed interiors of the Houses of Parliament) and stretching as far east as the Pullhamite rock constructed Winterstoke Gardens (another 20th Century leisure landscape designed specifically for strolling and contemplation). This conservation area includes the most defining features of Ramsgate – the Royal Harbour.
Geraint Franklin, a Historic England Investigator, has carried out research which will culminate in the publication of a book on Ramsgate in March 2020 as part of Historic England’s Informed Conservation series.
The book is illustrated with more than 100 new colour photographs and will include an architectural gazetteer and maps. The project will also include a historic area assessment, available online in Historic England’s Research Report Series.
Ramsgate has two other conservation areas – the Royal Esplanade Conservation Area designated in 2006 and Ramsgate Montefiore Conservation Area designated in 2007.
Events to celebrate the 50th anniversary are due to be announced by The Ramsgate Society.
The early May bank holiday in 2020 will move from Monday, May 4 to Friday, May 8 to mark the 75th anniversary of VE Day (Victory in Europe).
The occasion will remember the contribution of British, Commonwealth and Allied armed forces personnel; those who contributed to the war effort and safeguarded the Home Front. As well as marking the Allies’ victory in 1945, the bank holiday will serve as an opportunity to pay tribute to those who have served and continue to serve in the UK Armed Forces and their families.
Commemorative events will take place over the 3-day weekend across the country, including:
- the Nation’s Toast, where over 20,000 pubs will encourage patrons to raise a glass to the Heroes of World War II
- bagpipers playing the traditional Battle’s O’er at the top of the 4 highest peaks in the UK – Ben Nevis in Scotland, Scafell Pike in England, Mount Snowdon in Wales, and Slieve Donard in Northern Ireland
- bells in churches and cathedrals across the country joining forces in a special Ringing Out for Peace
- local street parties and celebrations across the 3-day weekend
VE Day was first celebrated on 8 May 1945 when Allied Forces formally accepted Germany’s surrender.