Christine Tongue: The Great The Good And The Grumpy

Ramp access to Pierremont Hall

A friend said “ You should go to this – you can say all the things you rant about in your column!”

So I went! It was Broadstairs Town forum and it was supposed to be a meeting of the great, the good, and the grumpy – well that was me – to discuss the future of the town.

Me and my mate Jackie went along as representatives of Access Thanet, in our mobility devices, up the new ramp into the council chamber in Pierremont Hall to share our ideas with a diverse range of bods, from Mocketts Wood, fireworks, Thanet College, town team, town councillors, neighbourhood engagement, University of Third Age, tourism gurus, Charles Dickens, donkey botherers etc etc.

The keen new councillors had done some work already and divided up the topics into three categories as their ambition for the future:  SAFER, CLEANER, KINDER.

We were put into groups to discuss what those topics meant to us. We all lobbied for our particular interests but when it comes to “safer” I’m afraid being a wheel user trumps the people who think we just need extra lighting or more cops on the streets. For us it’s not just unsafe, it’s actually life threatening trying to negotiate our neglected streets with their cavernous potholes and absent dropped kerbs, or residents with innovative ideas about where they have a right park -across the pavement, on double yellow lines on a dropped kerb etc etc. The opportunities are endless to plunge the unwary wheelie into oblivion….

Pavement parking

But what became clear before long was the level of passion in the room. Shouting became the only way to be heard – and older men seem to be specially keen on this form of debate. We were all supposed to get our say but getting it sometimes involved arm waving and note passing… if only I’d had one of those fireworks they were going on about. (Or a small cruise missile maybe…)

I heard some really good ideas, like food outlets having their own bins for their packaging so they were responsible for reducing  litter. Jackie suggested that any company digging up our roads should be asked to include more dropped kerbs when they restore them. No cost and big social benefits,

But there were some really bizarre  ideas  too – like keeping Broadstairs cleaner by making residents responsible for the street in front of their own houses, sweeping the pavement and  unblocking the drains. How do you think I’d do that? I asked. The shouty man who was so proud of his idea was flummoxed.

It’s not a new idea!

Christine, baby cousin Rita, and Christine’s mum who scrubbed the white step

I remember from my forties childhood living  in Railway Terrace, named because it was next to the railway line, housewives scrubbing their front steps to fight off the worst of the dirt and smoke from passing trains.

If we’re going back in history,  how about small boys with brooms?  There’s a crossing sweeper in a Dickens novel isn’t there? Meets a tragic end. They swept the road in front of you for a gratuity. Now that would be a suitable Broadstairs institution.

Christine and friend at Railway Terrace

Of course we should take some personal responsibility, but isn’t the main problem the big companies fouling our seas and beaches, and the meanness of not paying people properly to fill in our potholes and clean our streets?

I’m sure all the people there were extremely well intentioned, but there is a limit to what we can do as individuals as opposed to what we can expect from the local and national purse.

One suggestion was to have billboards around the town saying BE KIND! Well, tell that to the great, the good and the government!

Christine is a founder member of disability campaign group Access Thanet


  1. Re: cleaner streets, a good start would be for binmen to carry brooms and shovels with them, as they always used to. What do you think, Ms. Tongue?

    As for pavement parking, our narrow streets designed in the 18th and 19th centuries simply aren’t wide enough for everyone to park in the kerb. Maybe there should always be double yellow lines on one side of the road, and more traffic wardens of course. What say you, Ms. Tongue?

  2. Mobility scooters shouldn’t be used on pavements!
    Got a motor and lights then it can be on the road!
    Wheelchairs completely different.

    • Not sure I’d go that far, but I do believe that the speed should be limited to a relaxed walking pace. Few would find someone sprinting through a busy High Street acceptable, yet often these mobility scooters are often driven at a similar pace!

    • No, that’s wrong. Mobility scooters are only supposed to go on pavements unless the pavement is blocked. My scooter has a max speed of four miles an hour – a fast walk. I count as a pedestrian. Wish I could be again!

      • Mrs Tongue – I am afraid your information is once again incorrect. Mobility scooters come in various guise and my wife’s main one is both 8mph and 4mph. It is registered with DVLA as it should be. 8mph mode is for road use if needed and 4mph is restricted speed for pavements. Both her scooter and power chair are insured for public liability purpose for £2 million. I suspect most users do not bother with insurance which is not a requirement.

  3. ”Donkey botherers” ? ? ?

    Is that something for which you can have your name entered on some sort of register ?

  4. Interesting.Has Peter Checksfield had some kind of ephinany by turning pink and changing gender? Have they become ‘pinko lefties’of the sort that used to generate adverse comments from him in the past?
    I have long advocated the disbandment of TDC,a regional ‘East Kent unitary council’based in Canterbury elected by PR,which devolve local items to local councils.
    My only caveat on this is the parochial nature of some town & parish councils who seem determined to act on the basis of ‘ourselves alone’.
    Street cleaning,pothole repairs ,flytipping removal etc,could all be done locally,but some money would also have to devolved,and the towns and parishes would have to cooperate.
    As it is a fixation over taxation locally and nationally where the wealth and income inequality of current society,is leading to drift and delay on a broad range of issues.I am not suggesting that a putative Labour administration will be a panacea, because they like all first past the post administrations are a coalition of factions and often expediency and presentation overreaches difficult decision making.
    I have written several reports on how to tackle pavement parking,and it comes down to this:
    If a police officer sees a car mount or leave a pavement, the driver can be prosecuted under an ancient statute dating back to the first part of the 19th century but while the vehicle is on the pavement nothing can be done.
    In London pavement parking is forbidden.Scotland intended to follow suit,but may not have enacted the legislation yet.
    In England and Wales it is a case of dither and delay. As this Govt is seemingly going to campaign on woke motoring legislation or the so called ‘war against the motorist’,I would not expect any action in the near future.

  5. I totally agree with almost all the points you raise here Christine.
    It’s a sea-side town and gets very busy in the summer months, there has also been a purge of outsiders buying up properties in Broadstairs for holiday homes/rents AirBnBs and that makes it hard to park anywhere for anyone, the council just issue weekly/daily parking permits by the dozen regardless of how many parking spaces there are, hence they have no choice but to park anywhere they can – can’t really blame them as most have already paid.
    Then you get the others that move here and just complain endlessly about the place and instead of just accepting it as the place they have chosen to live they all try and change/protest everything they’re not happy about.
    My thought is, if they’re not happy with Broadstairs maybe find somewhere that can be their utopia and live happily ever after there instead?

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