A look at some of the events in Thanet during 2020



Carol Peters Travel

Carol Peters Travel firm director Peter Howe issued a statement apologising to customers following the closure of the coach business.

Mr Howe, who ran the business with wife Carol for some 24 years, said: “Unfortunately at 12.05pm on Thursday (January 16) due to various financial problems we were forced to close Carol Peters Travel.

“The website will be dealt with by an outside source and will be closed down asap.

“We would like to apologise to all our customers for any inconvenience this has caused anyone.

“We are personally devastated by the closure but would like to thank our staff and customers for their support over the last 24 years.”

Coaches at the Carol Peters Manston depot were repossessed despite Mr Howe’s attempts at negotiations to keep the business running.

The statement followed mounting anger over the lack of communication to customers whose phone calls, emails and messages had gone unanswered.

On January 18 customers were left disappointed after waiting for a coach that did not arrive for a pre-booked trip to the London model engineering exhibition.

The daughter of one of those customers, a 76-year-old woman, said she was ‘disgusted’ that there had been no warning and there was no answer when they called the emergency phone number for the firm.


Armed police carried out enquiries in Margate and Ramsgate Photo Thanet from my perspective

Armed police were in attendance on Margate seafront and in Ramsgate following a robbery at  Coral’s bookies in Newington Road, just before 2pm on February 19.

No injuries were reported but witnesses stated that a weapon was seen during the incident.

Police and armed units closed off the area as they swooped on Allenby Road Photo David Townsend

Following further information received, officers supported by the firearms unit,  attended Marine Terrace, Margate where they arrested a man just after 3pm in connection with the robbery and he was taken into custody.

The second suspect was arrested a few days later following a raid in Ramsgate.

Luke and Ben Twyman

Twins Luke and Ben Twyman were later jailed for six years each.


Covid care Photo EKHUFT

Patients in east Kent were confirmed as having the coronavirus and were being treated at QEQM Hospital in Margate and William Harvey Hospital in Ashford.

As of March 20, there had been 3,983 confirmed positive cases in the UK. Some 177 patients in the UK who tested positive for coronavirus (COVID-19) had died. In Kent 32 people had been confirmed as positive for the virus with a further 11 in Medway.

On March 23 Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced  ‘national emergency’ measures to slow down the spread of coronavirus.

In a speech to the nation the PM said gatherings of more than two people – excluding those who live together – would be dispersed and people will only be able to go out to exercise alone, shop for essentials, travelling to necessary work that cannot be done at home, travelling to help a vulnerable person and picking up essential medical goods.

All non-essential shops were closed. All social gatherings, except funerals, were halted.

A huge community effort then began to gather steam to help those who needed shopping, medication and/or food parcels. The community also made face masks and PPE equipment for frontline workers,

Intensive care beds at East Kent Hospitals Trust sites were gradually increased from 33 to 132 by mid April as the work to deal with coronavirus cases continued.

Additional equipment, including ventilators, is being sourced and more wards are being converted in preparation for an expected increase in patients.


Tribute was paid to a nurse from the Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother Hospital in Margate who has died after testing positive for COVID-19.

Mum-of-three Aimee O’Rourke died in the hospital’s Critical Care Unit late on April 2. The 39-year-old leaves behind daughters, Megan, Mollie and Maddie.

Aimee joined the Acute Medical Unit as a newly qualified nurse in 2017 and ward manager Julie Gammon said the whole team was devastated by her death.

She said: “She was such a kind and caring nurse, and she had a really special relationship with her patients and colleagues.

“Nursing was something she had always wanted to do, although she came to it relatively late after raising her girls.

“She took some time out to care for her mum after she was diagnosed with cancer and she was determined to return and to make her mum proud.

“Aimee was a really valuable part of our work family and would always offer to help if she could. She was really growing and developing in her skills and confidence and I know she would have gone on to have a great career.”

When Aimee was first brought into the hospital with symptoms of COVID-19, she asked for Julie and her colleague was able to sit with her in the emergency department.

Julie said: “It was an honour to be able to be with her and to provide some comfort and I am so glad that I was able to do so.”

Amanda Hallums, Chief Nurse at East Kent Hospitals, said everyone who worked alongside Aimee was heartbroken at her death.

She said: “We are a work family and it is devastating to lose one of our own. Aimee was determined to provide the best possible care to all of her patients and continued to come to work at a time when others were staying at home and inside.

“We will forever remember her smile, her concern for her patients and her colleagues, and her willingness to always go above and beyond.”

A candlelight vigil was held tonight to mark Aimee’s passing.


Dreamland Photo Frank Leppard

Dreamland gave 52 members of staff notice of redundancy from July 1 due to the devastating impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

The amusement park, which was due to hold 100th anniversary celebrations in July, did not reopen for the Summer  meaning a huge loss of income on top of that already suffered by the loss of the Easter season.

Last year the April-September season saw 650,000 visitors to the park – doubling the number on the year before.

The park, which was sold to operator Sands Heritage Ltd in December, remains shut.


By Frank Leppard

The month had two Black Lives Matter demonstrations, the first in Margate and then the second walking from Ramsgate to Broadstairs.

Protests were held worldwide in response to the killing of  black American George Floyd in Minneapolis. An American police officer pressed his knee into Mr Floyd’s neck for almost nine minutes during an arrest while he was handcuffed face down on the ground. Officers involved were suspended and charges brought.

Hundreds joined to protests but concerns were also raised about the need for social distancing and possible impact on covid rates.

The demos were organised by Thanet’s People Dem Collective. Participants at the events knelt for 8 minutes 46 seconds in silence – marking the nature of George Floyd’s death.

Image Ian Driver

Former councillor Ian Driver was charged with seven counts of criminal damage during the month after police carried out an investigation in relation to a series of anti-racism graffiti tags sprayed in Broadstairs and Ramsgate.

The Broadstairs resident is accused of spraying graffiti on Broadstairs and St Peter’s Town Council offices at Pierremont Hall, the office of the Broadstairs Folk Week, the Thanet council owned Dickens Museum, the box protecting the controversial Uncle Mack memorial plaque and two street signs in Broadstairs and Ramsgate. Mr Driver has pleaded not guilty and is due back in court on April 26.


Pubs, restaurants, hotels and other venues such as cinemas had the green light to reopen on July 4 as long as they were ‘covid secure.’

Businesses had been shut since before the March 23 ‘lockdown’ as government introduced guidance and then legislation to halt the transmission of coronavirus.

The closures meant the loss of a huge chunk of spring and Summer trade, staff on furlough, mounting bills for many as well as the work and expense to make premises ready to welcome the public once more.

July marked the reopening of restaurants, pubs, hotels, bed and breakfast, campsites, with overnight guests allowed as long as all shared facilities are kept clean and Covid secure measures are in place.

Hospitality trades had to limit contact to table service and encourage minimal staff/customer contact. Venues  collected contact details that can be used for test and trace is needed.

Manston airport Photo Frank Leppard

The decision on a development consent order for the Manston airport site was also announced.

The Department of Transport approved the application to create an air freight hub at the site despite the Examining Authority panel of Martin Broderick, Jonathan Hockley, Kelvin MacDonald and Jonathan Manning recommending to the Secretary of State that development consent should not be granted.

However, a Judicial Review bid was then launched by Ramsgate resident Jenny Dawes. A substantive hearing was due to take place at the High Court on February 16-17 and was to look at whether the Government followed correct procedure in reaching the decision to approve the DCO for landowners RiverOak Strategic Partners.

But, the Department of Transport then acknowledged this month (December) that the decision approval letter issued from the Minister of State did not contain enough detail about why approval was given against the advice of the Planning Inspectorate.

The DCO approval for Manston airport was to be quashed and a new decision still needs to be issued after a re-examination of the Planning Inspectorate evidence.


Photo Joanna Bongard

Thousands of sunseekers headed to Thanet beaches during the summer months– but unfortunately many did not take their rubbish home with them.

In August beaches at Margate, Botany Bay, Joss Bay and Viking Bay reached capacity and Ramsgate main sands was also very busy.

Margate Main Sands Photo Frank Leppard

Thanet council appealed for people to think about using other beaches and bays in the district so that social distancing could be maintained.

During the bank holiday Thanet council civil enforcement officers issued 121 Penalty Charge Notices on Friday, 166 on Saturday and 163 on Sunday.

There were some 300 extra public bins available for use across the isle but rubbish was still left on the beaches.

In Margate the Rise Up Clean Up volunteer group went out with 40 volunteers. They collected 71 bags of rubbish in 90 minutes, along with several large items, such as a boat, parasols, beach inflatables.

The Friends of Botany Bay and Kingsgate also collected an extraordinary amount of litter during their clear up event.


Westgate Photo Frank Leppard

‘Temporary’ traffic changes, expected to be in place for 18 months, were installed by Kent County Council in Margate, Broadstairs and Westgate.

The schemes were part of the government’s push for ‘active travel’ in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Kent County Council was allocated just over £8 million by the Department for Transport to invest in walking and cycling.

Broadstairs Photo Mel Chennell

The schemes included 35 roads in Margate that have been turned into 20mph zones, a one way system in Westgate from the top of Roxburgh Road, into Station Road, and changes in Broadstairs including a pedestrian and cycle zone on Albion Street and Harbour Street between Albion Street car park and its junction with High Street and a ‘Bus Gate’.

Westgate protest against the one-way proposal Photo Sarah Wyld

But lack of consultation and issues with parking, access and loss of trade for businesses resulted in uproar in Westgate and Broadstairs. Organised demos took place in Westgate and in Broadstairs there was anger over the loss of disabled parking bays.

Just days after implementation the schemes in Westgate and Broadstairs were scrapped.


Covid rates in Thanet began to rise and schools across the isle had to close year bubbles as more and more cases were confirmed amongst pupils and staff.

According to government data up until October 24 cases per 100,000 people rose to 106.4, and then to 116 per 100,000.

Test centre at car park by Dreamland Photo Frank Leppard

By this point Thanet had two test centres in place, the drive in at Manston and the walk in and drive in at the council-owned car park by Dreamland in Margate.

NHS bosses described the pandemic as the “greatest challenge” it has faced in its 72 year history as Kent and Medway CCG’s governing board met yesterday to discuss the worrying developments.

Mr Williams said “robust escalation” plans had been put in place to minimise the triple effects of winter pressures, Brexit disruption and Covid on Kent’s population of more than 1.5million people.

On October 27 it was announced Thanet council was introducing COVID-19 Street Wardens on high streets and town centres.

Thanet council said the COVID-19 Street Wardens would help to support a safe trading environment for local businesses and customers in the district. Their role was focused on providing information, guidance and advice to the public. It was not be their responsibility to enforce any of the current COVID-19 regulations. Street Wardens do not have enforcement powers.


On November 4 MPs voted to approve the government’s ‘lockdown across England from November 5 until December 2.

It was carried by 516 votes to 38. South Thanet MP Craig Mackinlay voted against the measures, questioning what the restrictions would mean for other health services and for families unable to see their loved ones. He was one of 32 Conservatives who rebelled against the measures.


It meant the closure once again of pubs and restaurants, although takeaways and deliveries were permitted; all non-essential retail, including, but not limited to clothing and electronics stores, vehicle showrooms, travel agents, betting shops, auction houses, tailors, car washes, tobacco and vape shops; indoor and outdoor leisure facilities; entertainment venues such as theatres, concert halls, cinemas, museums and galleries; personal care facilities and hotels, hostels and other accommodation.

Also in November it was announced  (November 30) – nine-year-old Aurora Pile-Gray from Westbrook was in remission.

Aurora was diagnosed with stage 4 Burkitts Lymphoma after becoming poorly towards the end of April.

The rare cancer affects blood and bone marrow. Aurora has been undergoing chemotherapy and her family were looking at CAR-T cell therapy and an allogeneic transplant.

Earlier this year, after 4 gruelling cycles of intensive chemo, Aurora had been given the news that she was in remission, however this was short lived.

In October the family were told the cancer had in fact spread to Aurora’s bones and that the youngster was in need of a bone marrow transplant. The situation was also complicated by Aurora’s mixed ethnicity, making it that much more difficult to find a match.

Keisha and Aurora before the chemo treatment

Mum Keisha said: “Aurora is officially back in remission!!

“Her bone marrow assessments show no cancer cells present, and no cancer cell regeneration on new cells in both the solid and liquid part of her biopsy.

“We were aware about the liquid aspirate a week ago, but we’ve been anxiously waiting for news on the solid part up until today!

“The transplant team have also sourced an 11/12 donor match which means that Aurora will have one more round of chemotherapy and will move forward with transplant in January!

“We don’t know much about her donor other than her stem cells will be coming from a 36 year old female, with 2 children. We aren’t sure if we are allowed to get in contact before two years but just know, if you read this and it’s you, or of you know who it could be, we owe our entire life to you and would give you the world.

“Days like today make our heart burst with pride and love and just how strong she has been throughout this whole ordeal. We are forever in awe of how she has tackled this journey and we are absolutely overjoyed that things are starting to look up!

“There’s still a long way to go, but she’s already come this far, we are all so over the moon, and I can barely get my words out, so for now, we are celebrating that out little lion is fighting on.”



Kent is among the areas put into Tier 3 covid restrictions from December 2 as rates in the county spiked.

At the beginning of the month government stats showed the overall rate for the isle for the seven days to November 26  was 443.2 – a drop from mid November when rates stood at 504.5 but still much higher than the start of November when the rolling rate was 268.5. Even this was a huge increase on the previous month when, going into October, the rate per 100,000 people was 24.7.

Restrictions on hospitality remain in place

Then the South East, London and East of England was moved into new Tier 4 restrictions with a reversal of the relaxing of measures over Christmas and the closure of non-essential shops, indoor gyms, leisure and personal/beauty services.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the tougher restrictions following an emergency Cabinet meeting.

The measures were prompted by the new strain of coronavirus which was spreading rapidly throughout London and Kent and, scientists say, is up to 70% more contagious than any previously detected.

Weekly data from NHS England showed a large rise in the number of covid patients being cared for by East Kent Hospitals (Margate, Ashford and Canterbury).

The data said 349 beds were in use for covid patients under the trust on December 15.

Government data displaying the rate for the week up to December 14 showed Thanet as 536.9 per 100,000  A total of 5,800 positive tests had been recorded for Thanet at this point.

Kenneth Lamb receiving the vaccine from Kirsty Rison, Occupational Health Nurse at William Harvey Hospital (Photo EKHUFT)

This month the NHS began carrying out its vaccination programme with the Pfizer/BioTech vaccine. Sites include three GP surgeries in Thanet and William Harvey Hospital in Ashford. Targeted asymptomatic testing launched on December 18 in Kent with Ramsgate Port one of the first sites.

Manston at capacity Photo Frank Leppard

Just before Christmas the French border was closed to UK passengers and accompanied freight with the French government voicing concerns over the virulent new strain of covid spreading in parts of England.

The closure between December 21 and 23 was followed by news that all those travelling to France from the UK needed a negative covid test from within 72 hours of the journey.

The result was thousands of HGVs stacked at Manston airport, the M20, Ashford and many other Kent roads and laybys. Traffic chaos ensued in Dover and roads around Manston, Minster and the Sandwich Bypass.

Phot Louis Mclaren

Emergency services, Army personnel, Coastguard, local authority staff, security, marshalling and other staff at Manston, NHS test teams, French firefighters and  Polish doctors, diagnosticians, nurses and paramedics were all drafted in to get the hauliers home following the closure and then reopening of the border with France.


A huge local effort also mobilised to make sure truckers at Manston, Dover and on the M20 had food, water and hygiene items, including deliveries from individuals, clubs and businesses and members of the Polish, Romanian and Sikh communities in the UK.


The Manston holding site was declared virtually empty by Boxing Day although there were still queues on the M20. This has now been mostly cleared.

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