Opinion with Daniel Hind: A Thanet Plan

Thanet Image Lewis Clarke / Thanet : Thanet Scenery

Daniel Hind has lived in Margate since 2014. He is the author of three books and his journalism has appeared in openDemocracy, the Guardian, the Times Literary Supplement and the London Review of Books. He is currently a doctoral student in political philosophy at the University of York.

In the first of a short series of pieces, Daniel looks at how new revenue could be brought into Thanet.

Photo Louis McLaren

Thanet is an incredibly rich place. It’s just that many of the people who live here don’t have much money. In fact they don’t have much financial wealth of any kind. Sometimes we talk about this as if it is inevitable. Ramsgate and Margate used to be successful tourist resorts. But domestic tourism started to decline in the1970s, when people were able to enjoy reliable Mediterranean sunshine, and there is nothing to be done about that. Coastal towns struggle to attract inward investment, since at least half of their catchment areas are underwater, and no one can argue with the North Sea.

This is all at best misleading. At worst it is politicians’ patter; a way of justifying unemployment, inadequate housing, and worse. If climate was destiny, Disneyland wouldn’t have set up shop in one of the gloomiest spots in Northern Europe. Being on the North Sea coast doesn’t seem to have been a problem for almost every major town and city in Holland. Thanet is blessed with sandy beaches and marvellous architecture. It is 90 minutes away from one of the wealthiest megacities in the world. It has, as Turner said, and we like to repeat, the finest skies in all of Europe. There’s nothing inevitable about low wages, high rents, and poor housing.

Beach images Photo James Pearce

Thanet’s wealth is natural; it is a function of geography and history. It is what economists call ‘economic rent’, unearned income that is not the result of enterprise and risk-taking. It is money that rolls in every year when people fancy a trip to the seaside. As long as visitors can get here easily, lots of them will come, whether we are good at hosting them or not. What matters is where they spend their money and where the money then goes. At the moment far too much of it is captured by landlords, and leaves to fund luxury lifestyles elsewhere. Not only that, many of the people who visit stay for the day and their money finds its way to a handful of locationally blessed businesses near the seafronts. Some of those businesses are independent. But many are national chains that send their money to head offices in London at the end of the working day. A flood of money pours into Thanet, but far too much of it pours straight out.

Turner Contemporary Photo Visit Thanet

The increasing popularity of Thanet as a place to stay for days or weeks doesn’t translate into wealth and opportunity for most of the people who live here, because the money doesn’t stay long enough to fund regional investment.

The question then is this: how to we capture some of this torrent of unearned income, and use it to improve life for the people who live here, and make Thanet a more attractive place to visit, in a virtuous circle? How do we build up the tourism sector in a sustainable way, and then use it as the driver for broader, and deeper, economic and social development?

Getting our hands on the money

First, we need to get our hands on the money. There are two possible sources. Either one will make a difference. Together they will be transformative. To create new public revenues we need to tax short term rentals at rates that reflect the extent to which the money raised doesn’t reflect the effort and ingenuity of owners, but the fact that they happen to own a property near beautiful beaches, not far from London. This tax should be based on the rental value of properties; income over and above the rent that could be achieved through a standard 6 or 12 month tenancy should be taxed at a very high rate. At the moment Air BnB is offering ‘more than a thousand’ properties in Thanet over the first weekend of August. Apparently on those dates ‘there aren’t many places left in Thanet District, so now’s a good time to book.’ I will leave you to figure out how much money short term lets makes, and how much could be taxed and put to public use with no ill effects.

Photo Thanet Tourism

The other way to capture revenues from our natural advantages would be through a congestion charge on vehicles entering Thanet. A £5 or £10 charge could be levied by putting cameras on the four roads entering the district. If residents had a 100% exemption the sums raised would still be staggering. It might even reduce the tailbacks on the A299 every time the sun shines. People could avoid the charge by coming by train or by coach. The idea is not to penalise people without much money. The idea is to generate gigantic public revenues that can be put to good use here.

Of course there’s no guarantee that these new revenues will result general enrichment. Elected politicians do not seem to be good at building a vibrant local economy that works for everyone. A tidal wave of new money will have to be channelled through new institutions if it not to end up in the pockets of smooth-talking consultants, hedge funders, and  frittered away on self-defeating white elephants. The money must be spent wisely, at the direction of the people who best understand the area and its potential, which is to say, all of us.4

These new, properly demo-cratic, institutions are the subject of the second article in this series. The third will trace the route to them, and a new deal for Thanet, via the ballot box.


  1. The avaricious idiocy of The Left!
    How do we – The Correct Thinking Non- Wealth Generating Liberal Elite – get hold of the wealth generated by others who actually risk their own capital, home, etc. in doing so.
    Then, from our moral high ground, decide who deserves OUR largesse!
    No thanks pal.
    You come up with a good idea as to how, by risking your own wealth, you can generate more wealth. Then I’ll hear you out.

    • What Thanet really needs is for a large holiday company (perhaps the likes of Butlins) to have large capacity hotels capable of accommodating a thousand guests for a week or a fortnight being coached in from all over the country. The guests can then predominantly spend their time and their money in Thanet.

      Successions of shows and events at local theatres and other venues would help keep them entertained and generate more revenue. Day trips to France could be operated from Ramsgate harbour.

      Seaside amusement parks with rides and stalls and nonsense such as toffee apples, candyfloss, cockles and whelks.

      An added novelty attraction could be daily ferry trips from somewhere on the Thames to a pier at Margate.

      I am also sure it would not be beyond the realms for there to be an airport at Manston operating international flights on a package holiday basis – bet it from Europe or America.

      Just a few silly ideas I know – but not half as silly as toll booths on the Thanet Way . . .

  2. Interesting viewpoint but for Ramsgate how many visitors will come when there is a cargo plane overhead every 15 minutes?
    How many air BNBs will fail to attract paying customers when it opens.
    As dependent on the sunny days in summer as Ramsgate is how many visitors will choose Margate and Broadstairs instead

    • You are aware that Ramsgate was a successful resort between 1916 and 2014.
      Visitors used to be quite impressed by the 2 Hercules transports each day flying low over Waitrose.

      • the point seems to have completely eluded that thing between your ears.
        Just how many visitors stopped coming to Ramsgate after flights to the sun became cheap enough under Freddie Laker?
        since the airpit closed tourists have flocked to all 3 main towns especially Ramsgate.
        Just ask Visit Thanet how much tourism has grown since 2014
        and No it wasn’t a success between 1980 and 2014 compared to what it was after WW2 just look at how many moneymaking venues have closed because of a lack of visitors
        Pleasurama, The Lido, Westcliff Hall just to name 3. TDC cannot even afford to maintain the only remaining lift FFS

  3. Perhaps if TDC spent the money it had been awarded that would be a good start. Glacial to zero progress on the Ramsgate levelling up or the High St fund. Perhaps they don’t think these investments are worth it now Ash Ashby wants a cargo plane to land over the town every 17 minutes at 500 feet.

    Perhaps TDC could invest in tourism staff instead of redundancies and perhaps they could support the Ramsgate Tourist Office in the Custom House be open at the weekend, something it cannot do as it runs on volunteers and there are not enough!

    This is a bizarre article and has been rightly pointed out, was not a Shangri-la mecca of visitors once low cost flights arrived.

    The government inspector confirmed that a cargo hub would kill more jobs than it creates in Ramsgate. The facts are unemployment has declined since Manston last closed.

    These are the truths.

    TDC elected leadership has no interest whatsoever in supporting Ramsgate to thrive.

    And why on earth would a congestion change help us to thrive? Parking is already more expensive here than Kensgington & Chelsea and Stagecoach are cutting Services.

  4. Yeah, a charge to enter Thanet will do it! My goodness, I’ve heard some rubbish.
    And the answer to everything from the left is to tax more. I see he uses the phrase unearned income for holiday rentals. Of course, ignoring the upkeep, the risk, the capital investment, the cost for renovation in many cases, the chance that property prices will fall.
    Dream on to Dreamland.

  5. He raises a very good point. A large amount of “holiday” spend dissapears off the island. Ie my neighbour recently sold and it’s now a London based Airbnb. Something needs to be done to get some of that profit given back – it’s removing long term rentals from the market so inflating the price of the remaining properties at an alarming rate.

  6. The housing shortage is decades old.

    Holiday rentals generate huge visitor numbers and money spent on the Isle.

  7. What about relatives visiting? Say from Canterbury or Faversham? Say they visit weekly?
    Would they have to pay every time?
    Or people doing work on your house? Travelling in from Sandwich, Dover, Canterbury?

  8. Quote “The other way to capture revenues from our natural advantages would be through a congestion charge on vehicles entering Thanet. A £5 or £10 charge could be levied by putting cameras on the four roads entering the district. If residents had a 100% exemption the sums raised would still be staggering. It might even reduce the tailbacks on the A299 every time the sun shines. People could avoid the charge by coming by train or by coach. The idea is not to penalise people without much money. The idea is to generate gigantic public revenues that can be put to good use here”

    Is this article meant to serious or a joke ?

    It’s right about the poor wages, high rent etc.

  9. Congestion charges are thefts from law abiding citizens who have already paid their taxes to be able to use the roads.
    Anywhere there is a port with ferries and an airport there is higher employment better public transport better local amenities more affordable housing more schools more doctors more dentist improvements in local services of all types hotels restaurants theatre’s. Ferry ports and airports are magnetic hubs that draw people to them many travel to those destinations the day before they travel spending money in the local economy creating jobs and wealth.

    • Yeah, just like Dover, Hull, East Midlands and Southend Bill, they are all full of “higher employment better public transport better local amenities more affordable housing more schools more doctors more dentist improvements in local services of all types hotels restaurants theatre’s”

      Stop lying and get your head out our arse! You’re worse than Farage!

    • you don’t pay to use the roads, it is paid by general taxation. A congestion tax would sort out some of the parking issues, and help pay to clean up the mess visitors make.
      Apparently airbnb’s can get away without even paying council tax, so everything in Thanet provided free for their customers with the locals paying for it.

  10. Bill

    “Ferry ports and airports are magnetic hubs that draw people to them many travel to those destinations the day before they travel spending money in the local economy creating jobs and wealth.”

    Interesting Bill have you been to dover in the last decade or so ? It’s a sh*t hole. Just full of hgvs heading to the port, if theres a problem at the port dover is grid locked.

    So you would like to see thanet gridlocked with HGV’s from ramsgate port and manston airport. 1000’s of extra HGV’s, aviation fuel tankers and holidaymakers all travelling up the two lanes thanet way and M2 ! What could possibly go wrong lol

  11. I imagine the new Selina model of hotel in Margate (the old Smiths Court Hotel) will help with both private and shared bedroom accommodation – allowing for more affordable longer stays, plus local tours etc. It works for those digital nomads across the world and independent travellers, and they usually take more of an interest in the local offerings and community. Good for them for having the foresight to invest in Margate.

  12. Why is it that the left leaning see ever increasing taxation as the solution to all ills. Whatever happened to innovation and hard work. If ever there was a reason not to vote labour the attitudes in the article are it.

    • “Whatever happened to innovation and hard work?”
      Now there’s a good question for local councillors😂!!
      Interesting reading but no alternative solutions to break the deprivation cycles offered by those commenting🙄

      • The deprivation cycles are in too many cases a lifestyle choice. ( claim all you can, do a bit of cash in hand work or some petty crime if you want a bit more) . The opening of Thanet earth demonstrated the mindset of thanets unemployed, one of its big arguments was that it would provide a good number of low skilled jobs that would offer a route back into paid employment for unemployed locals. But when it opened the expected rush of applicants failed to appear, within a couple of years it was instead mainly european labour who used it as a first job in the uk while they found something better. According to one of the foremen there, locals didn’t like the early starts or having to work a full shift.
        The only way you’ll get the pathologically lazy back to work is to reduce the benefits to a level that means they have to work, but no appetite for that in the corridors of power.

  13. Look up the Centre for Inequalities & Levelling Up and Family Law Commission recent Reports on Rethinking Levelling Up and Unleashing Civic Potential. The thrust is ‘to level up you must first level down’ – only by actually engaging and empowering the community with a sense of ownership will matters improve. It is hoped that a further ‘Reinvention Symposium’ for community leaders can be organised in time for the local elections. This should appeal to the Local Plan Consultation Forum (which we have not of course got.)

  14. LC, this useless government doesn’t support those who work hard the way public sector workers are treated is proof of that, also the many self employed are only able to survive by charging their customers cash-in-hand. It’s hard work trying to survive for millions.

    • Having repeatedly dealt with output from TDCs public sector workers , many don’t deserve what they do get, too busy Covering each others backs and finding a way to avoid doing things properly.
      The only department of late that i’ve dealt with that was efficient , knowledgable and timely was the landlord liason department , if the rest of the council were as good the isle would have a future in terms of local governance. Currently there are only around 50 people a day attending the Cecil Square offices the rest are working from home, achieving the thin end of very little.
      No the only way the cash in hand self employed can keep getting their benefits is by taking cash only. Yes it is hard getting by but not that hard.

  15. There is an element of truth in how you see the world, Lc, but it is not the whole truth. ‘Deprivation’ does not only apply to those who claim benefits – there are many reasons people find it v hard to access jobs that pay enough to be able to afford a ‘reasonable’ shelter to call home.
    Peter, as a nurse working 12 hr shifts, and frequently asked to cover extra (yes, a public sector worker), if I had the energy I would find your comment offensive.

    • You are correct, my statements are over generalised but do however in my view cover the “majority position”, though my views are the result of being involved in cliftonville for over 20 yewrs and as such a touch jaded.

      Undoubtedly there are those who put in the hours in but just don’t get ahead, the in work benefit system has infantilised too many ( they’re happy to do low skilled low paid work , no interest in bettering themselves or doing more hours) because the benefit / tax system at their level rewards personal circumstances and not effort. Just as the system also destroys the confidence of others doing the same work but because of circumstances take home way less.
      Be under 35 and single no dependents and you’ll only get help for housing costs towards a room in an hmo. No one working full time should have to live like that , when a work colleague with a wife and 2 kids doing exactly the same work will get the 2 room rate , plus other credits/ benefits for doing exactly the same work. The system needs changing so that they are paid equally at a much higher rate then taxed on the basis of their circumstances. It would soon make people realise how the system works in reality and focus minds .
      Of course that would mean a huge increase in wages would be required and a complete rewrite of the tax system, it also means that politicians would be seen as no longer having the power to give and only take to differing degrees and they’re hardly likely to want to be seen in that light.

  16. It’s great to read someone trying to make some positive suggestions for Thanet moving forward rather the relentless “things were better” narrative I seem to hear. The past is gone and we need to find new ways to attract new visitors and to spread the income this generates.I know many locals seem to hate art and the people who enjoy it but art and music lovers can be drawn to a place that provides those, will stay if there is good accomodation and spend in restaurants and other shops. I see a lot of people trying new initiatives here – some succeed and some fail but I admire those who try. Donkeys on the beach,whellks, candy floss and toffee apples may have worked once upon a time but that time has gone. We may not agree with all his ideas but it opens a debate and I hope long term residents will open their minds to new possible futures for our wonderful area.

  17. There must be acres of unoccupied space (a field day for Rees-Mogg ?) but the Housing Committee are probably considering repurposing for social accommodation (all those homeless forced out of the private rented sector by AirBnB – numbers have doubled even though longterm empties are up by 18%.) Not so long ago there were £3 millions reserved for vacating the offices – whatever happened to that plan ? Perhaps all is stalled until the green light for a Combined Authority is given with resultant economies of scale ??
    The Council Chamber would make an ideal ‘Crucible’ for snooker championships …

    • I’d guess that the work from home caper that the council has embraced with huge enthusiasm means that any new offices will not need to be anywhere as large as the existing ones. It’d be interesting to know if the existing office space is heated in its entirety for the small number of employees that still use the building each day.

    • Given the almighty and hugely expensive clusterfornification that the merger of four housing departments to form East Kent Housing ( on the same pretext of cost saving through economies of scale) turned into, merging authorities i’d guess is very unlikely. Not taking into account the ivory towers and cosy relationships that would have to be dismantled and so be resisted by those involved.

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