25 Thanet stories in the news during 2017

We take a look at 2017 on the isle as we head into a new year Photo Mel Chennell

It is nearly the end of 2017, and how it has flown by. It barely seems weeks ago that we were covering the General Election and the excitement of the Royal Victoria Pavilion opening.

As the year draws to a close we take a look at 25 things that took place on the isle throughout the year.

January

Michael Bowditch, 21, admitted the manslaughter of teenager Becky Morgan, whose body was discovered in the sea off Broadstairs in.

Bowditch, of Prestedge Avenue, Ramsgate, was sentenced to five and a half years.

On Sunday 1 May 2016 Bowditch called Kent Police just after 5am to report that he had watched Miss Morgan drown in the sea near Ramsgate Pier two or three hours earlier.

The pair had met earlier that night at a party and had left their friends in a pub so they could walk along and sit on the harbour arm.

Bowditch told police they had been ‘mucking about’ when Miss Morgan had fallen into the sea.

Consultation opened on revisions to Thanet’s Draft Local Plan.

The Local Plan is a blueprint for housing, business and infrastructure for the isle up until 2031.

It sets out how much development is needed to support the future population and economy. Allocating land through the plan is designed to give the council greater control over where and what type of developments can take place.

Revisions to the plan included axing the aviation-use only designation at Manston airport and putting forward two new isle sites.

The revisions also included a small change to the location of the proposed Thanet Parkway Station and new roads.

The plan was overwhelmingly rejected by the council’s scrutiny panel in November. It goes to vote at full council in January.

February

Thanet council

Thanet council agreed its budget for the year ahead with plans to buy up two isle multi-storey car parks, sell more authority-owned property, create a housing company and launch a local lottery.

The budget for 2017-18 was £17.5 million, made up of:

Council tax £9.2m

Central Government grant £1.4m

Rates £4.9m

New Homes Bonus £1.8m

Council tax collection fund £100,000

Among money raising actions to be implemented was the controversial hike in parking costs across the isle. Fees for car parks and on-street parking rose in costs of between 20p and £4.

It was confirmed Hornby Hobbies would not build its visitor centre at Ramsgate Harbour.

The Scalextric and model train giant, which sold its site in Margate for £2.25 million following a move of distribution to Hersden in 2014 and office functions to Discovery Park in 2015, had planned to create the centre next to the maritime museum.

Developer Jack Baker, of Neath Properties, took on the £3.7million scheme and had already carried out work on the historic slipways as part of the project.

Designs for the visitor centre had depicted a building in the late Victorian or Any Edwardian style.

But marketing agent for the project Jon Dahms, of the Property Management Company, confirmed that Hornby advised it would not be proceeding with the centre at Ramsgate Harbour despite exchanging contracts for the sale of the Margate site in Ramsgate Road.

March

Jailed: John Dickson

The killer of 20-year-old Carl Gregory, from Ramsgate, was sentenced to life with a minimum of 18 years in prison.

Carl was kicked and strangled during at Westwood Retail Park car park in Margate Road, shortly after 9.45pm on Tuesday 4 October 2016.

He was pronounced dead at the scene.

John Dickson, 27, of Northdown Road, Cliftonville, was arrested and charged with Mr Gregory’s murder.

He denied the charge but was convicted on March 29 following a trial at Maidstone Crown Court.

The jury heard how Carl’s former girlfriend Chloe Lemare had fallen out with him over a social media post, and that she had asked another man to speak to him about it.

Christopher Pollard, who was also charged with Mr Gregory’s murder, was found not guilty by the jury.

How it will look

Following a six-year campaign, The Margate Caves Community Education Trust announced that the future of the historic Margate Caves was secure and the attraction was expected to open in 2019, thanks to a grant of £1,115,700 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).

The group announced its success in securing more than £420,000 in funds from the Big Lottery Fund last year, so the HLF grant award took the project total to over £1.5million of funding raised by National Lottery players. The Trust has planned an ambitious mixed-use scheme for the site.

April

Photo by Roy Goldhawk

Fire crews were called to The Holly Tree in Northdown Road at 8.40am on April 16 and spent several hours fighting the blaze which is believed to have started in the roof.

Some 20 firefighters and six engines, including the specialist height vehicle, were used to tackle the blaze which was finally brought under control at 12.55pm. Three engines and crew remained on site to damp down fire hotspots.

The property was so badly damaged that DDS Demolition were on site in the early evening to take down some of the parts of the structure which had become dangerous.
Road closures were put in place on several junctions and remained in place until 9.25pm while the incident was dealt with.

Kent Police said officers were investigating the cause.

KLM Manston 

The month marked three years ago  since KLM airlines ceased operations at Manston airport.

The Dutch airline had been flying from Manston for just over a year but when the announcement came that new owner Ann Gloag planned to shut down the airport KLM had no choice but to leave.

The anniversary came amidst continued battles over the site with RiverOak Strategic Partners, not associated with the US RiverOak corporation originally involved in dealings to become an indemnity partner with Thanet council, continuing the bid to progress a Development Consent Order for the Manston site and land owner Stone Hill Park working on proposals to build 2,500 homes; an advanced manufacturing focused business park; sports and recreational facilities, with the former runway becoming the focal point for a network of parkland, trails and outdoor space, and a ‘heritage hub’ at the site.

May

Thousands of visitors turned out for the reopening of Dreamland Margate on May 26.

The amusement park had undergone a £25million overhaul following investment from Arrowgrass Capital Partners.

The event also included the switch on of the Dreamland neon signs by artist Tracey Emin, who was joined for the light up by artist Rachel Wilberforce.

UKIP lost all seven of its seats for the isle in the county council election.
Margate and Cliftonville were taken by Labour’s Barry Lewis who took the seat with 1,268 votes and Lesley Game for the Conservatives with 2,679 votes. Chris Wells, UKIP, took 648 votes.

Broadstairs also went to the Conservatives with Rosalind Binks taking 3,155 votes.

Emma Dawson and Ken Gregory took the Birchington and rural seats for Conservatives with 4,579 and 4,103 votes.

Sadly long-standing Thanet Conservative councillor Ken Gregory died in October.

Karen Constantine for Labour and Paul Messenger for Conservatives took Ramsgate.

Karen polled 3,200 votes and Paul polled 3,168.

It meant a wipe out for UKIP, a gain of one for Labour – holding two seats – and a gain of five seats, up from none in 2013 – for Conservatives at county level.

Thanet turn out was 31.3%, the highest was in Broadstairs at 37.7% and the lowest in Margate at 24%.

Conservatives retained control of the county council.

June

Photo John Finnegan

The country went to the polls for a snap General Election.

In Thanet Craig Mackinlay took the South Thanet seat with  25, 262 votes.

The South Thanet campaign was more low-key than in 2015 but was still hit by controversy when Mr Mackinlay and two aides were charged by the CPS in relation to election overspend claims just seven days before voters went to the polls.

The North Thanet seat was taken by veteran MP Sir Roger Gale with more than 27163 votes.

The Isle of Thanet News reveals caps on benefits, a lack of affordable homes and rising private rents are creating a housing crisis in Thanet.

The number of households placed in temporary accommodation spiralled from 44 at the end of March 2015 to 147 by March 31, 2017.

And the use of emergency bed and breakfast almost tripled in the past two years – as did the costs.

In March 2015, there were 24 households in emergency B&B. By March 2017 the figure was 63, with 18 of those including children or pregnant women.

Thanet council head of housing Bob Porter said: “ “The situation is difficult and getting harder for people, particularly people on low incomes or welfare benefits.

“Before we relied on supporting people into private renting but rents are growing and there is the need for guarantors, we can make discretionary housing payments but it is becoming much more difficult.

“There are restrictions on benefits and housing allowances and this makes it much harder for us to do homelessness prevention work to stop people getting to crisis point.”

Photo Frank Leppard

The latest film shooting on the isle was a blockbuster starring Michael Caine, Ray Winstone, Jim Broadbent and Michael Gambon.

The film – Night in Hatton Garden – is based on the April 2015 Hatton Garden jewel heist carried out by an ageing gang of crooks. It is due to be released in 2018.

July

Photo Malcolm Kirkaldie

Ramsgate Maritime Museum was renamed Sandcliff Seaside Museum by film crews shooting scenes on the isle for a movie

The crew of Juliet, Naked an adaptation of the 2009 novel by Nick Hornby, filmed Ramsgate an Broadstairs for several days.

The production stars Rose Byrne, Ethan Hawke and Chris O’Dowd as well as Azhy Robertson (Law & Order: Special Victims Unit), Lily Brazier (People Just Do Nothing), Ayoola Smart (Vera) and stand-up comedian Jimmy O. Yang.

The movie tells the story of Annie (played by Rose Byrne), the long-suffering girlfriend of Duncan (Chris O’Dowd), and her unlikely transatlantic romance with once revered, now faded, singer-songwriter, Tucker Crowe (Ethan Hawke), who also happens to be the subject of Duncan’s musical obsession.

Archie Ward

The Archie Ward Memorial Match kicked off at Ramsgate FC’s Southwood ground.

Miles & Barr Thanet Sunday Football League held the match with Ramsgate FC.

Mr Ward died following an altercation at a barbecue in St John’s Avenue in June.

The Ramsgate dad and keen football player suffered a stab wound to his leg. He collapsed in Bush Avenue and tragically was pronounced dead at the scene.

The death of the 40-year-old shocked the Thanet community with many taking to social media to express their sorrow and anger at the loss.

The money raised at the match went to Mr Ward’s family.

A massive £27,500 was also raised for Mr Ward’s family through a  crowdfunder page set up by friend Scott Downton. The total busted through the original £5000 target in just hours.

John Buchanan, 21, of St John’s Crescent, is charged with the murder of Mr Ward.

Mr Buchanan’s trial has been set for January 8.

August

Mayor of Ramsgate Cllr Trevor Shonk and the Mayoress Mandy Shonk officially open Wetherspoon’s biggest UK pub on Ramsgate seafront.

The Royal Victoria Pavilion had languished empty and neglected since 2008 when Rank Leisure casino moved to Westwood Cross. In 2011  serious damage was caused by a fire and the building was  listed on the Victorian Societies’ Building at Risk Register in 2013.

Planning permission for the pub was granted last year and a lease deal with Thanet council came soon afterwards.

The grade II listed building was carefully restored in a £4.5 million project, working to photographs and designs, keeping as close as possible to the original concept, designed by notable architect Stanley Davenport Adshead and originally completed in 1903.

Work at the premises included a new zinc roof installed on the large main roof, in keeping with the original building, and the reinstatement of the pavilion’s classic dormer oriel windows.

Photo Chris Constantine

The father of teenager Taiyah Peebles, who tragically died on rail tracks at Herne Bay in June, was found dead at his Ramsgate home.

Paul Butters, 37, was a popular former employee at The Ravensgate Arms and was also known for being a part of local bands and for his brilliant art work.

The Ravensgate Arms dedicated its opening night  on August 31 to Paul’s memory.

Regulars, friends and businesses rallied to provide raffle items to help raise money for mental health charity Mind, a cause put forward by Paul’s family.

September

Val Rose, pictured with great-granddaughter Lucy

Around 40 residents of two care homes in Westgate were told they had just a month to move before the homes shut down.

Orchard Care Homes announced to staff and families that Norfolk House and neighbouring Ashbury Court were to be closed for ‘financial reasons.’

According to sources staff were told they faced redundancy in a meeting just 15 minutes before families were told of the situation.

The short time span to find suitable accommodation proved traumatic for many of those affected, including Lynne Gill, from Westgate, who had to find a new home for her mum, Val Rose.

The former nurse, 89, is living with dementia. Norfolk House, where Val has been for the past three years, was chosen partly because it is in Westgate, close to the family.

Mum-of-two Lynne said she was worried her mum would end up miles away because all of her income from her house had been spent on care.

Photo Dean Fragile

The Libertines move into their newly-bought hotel in Margate.

The Isle of Thanet News reveals the band purchased the Palm Court Hotel in Eastern Esplanade.

The property was bought by  Spaniel, Spaniel, Lombard & Rowntree Limited, of Baker Street, on August 11 for £458,000.

The London firm’s director is Carl Barat, Libertines frontman with Pete Doherty. Pete has been asked to support a campaign to save the Margate mural from demolition.

A planning application to Thanet council requesting permission for change of use of the ground floor single storey rear extension of the hotel to a music recording studio had been approved.

October

Melissa Carr Photography

Kent County Council reveals it will fund the majority of a £20 million project to build a secondary school on the site formerly occupied by the Royal School for Deaf Children.

A £3million project to expand the Ursuline School in Westgate by two forms (two classes extra a year from 2018) is also announced.

The isle has a shortage of secondary school places available. This year the shortfall was met by three schools taking more than their admission places but education chiefs are predicting a shortfall of 183 Year 7 places for 2019/20 and this rises to 227 by 2022/23 if no action is taken.

Across the school year (Years 7-11) this could mean a shortage of 920 places by 2022/23.

The new six form school in Margate would help combat this, along with the Ursuline expansion – to begin in 2018 and be made permanent in 2019.

The secondary, which will be a free school, will open for the first year in 2019 at the former Walmer School site with 150 pupils. They will then transfer to the new build the following year with pupil numbers predicted to have doubled and the school roll having students from Year 7-Year 9. By  2022/23 the school is predicted to have 690 pupils enrolled.

The Margate school will cater for Years 7-11. The site is not large enough to support a Sixth Form.

The Royal School for Deaf Children was shut down suddenly in December 2015 after The John Townsend Trust, which ran it, went into administration.

Some of our Special Star party guests

The Isle of Thanet News and Princess World UK launches the Special Stars at Christmas appeal.

A magical Christmas party with princesses and other fantastic characters will be hosted on December 21 for Thanet boys and girls who face extra challenges in life.

Princess World UK has teamed up with The Isle of Thanet News to treat young carers, youngsters with disabilities or illnesses or children that have had to overcome obstacles in life.

More than 60 children will be attending two special parties at the Princess World venue in Westwood.

We are asking for people to buy an extra gift to pop under the tree at Princess World UK and help bring an extra smile to the faces of our special star party guests and children on Rainbow Ward at QEQM who will ecieve a visit from the Princess World team on Christmas Eve.

Donations can be taken to Princess World, Westwood Business Park, Strasbourg Street, Margate CT9 4JJ. Call 01843 309602.

November

Cecil Square light up event Photo Carole Adams

A fundraiser was launched after it was revealed Margate’s Cecil Square would not get a Christmas tree this year.

The town’s tree, which is funded by the Margate mayor and charter trustees, was instead placed in the Old Town.

The blow followed last year’s “shambolic” tree that was put in place with just one string of lights.

Falcon Electrical and Security Ltd, Off The Hook Productions and CommunityAd Web Ltd stepped in to raise funds for the tree, decorations and lights and installation. A successful switch on event was held in December.

Will Anderson (purple top) helping at the shelter

The Isle of Thanet News meets the volunteers of the Thanet Winter Shelter scheme before its December opening.

Volunteers gathered at St Christopher’s church hall in Newington to prepare for  the opening. Thanet District Council has put £20,000 into the shelter scheme, which is operated by the Salvation Army and looks to continue the success of last year’s initiative in helping rough sleepers off the streets during the harsh winter months.

Among those we met was Will Anderson who was helped by the project last year.

The 42-year-old found himself homeless last December. The former retail worker and adult care support worker had just the clothes he was stood in and a rucksack with a few personal belongings.

After being helped by the scheme to find a new home Will returned this year as a volunteer

December

Thanet council confirms it is investigating Kingdom litter officers after the authority was sent photos of the staff apparently dropping cigarette butts on the floor in Margate.

Enforcement officers were photographed on several occasions taking a break in the alley by the Mill Lane car park. A complaint was then made about piles of cigarette butts in the area.

The pictures were sent to Thanet council’s Cabinet Member for Housing and Open Spaces Rev Stuart Piper who asked the authority to investigate.

A Thanet council spokesman said: “The council has a zero tolerance policy to dropping litter in public and is extremely disappointed to have learned about this incident.”

It is revealed that Church Hill Dental Practice in Ramsgate will shut next March.

Kent Community Health NHS Foundation Trust’s dental services are commissioned to provide care at the practice, which has some 8,000 people on the books.

But the contract ends on March 31, 2018, and will not be renewed.

Angry patients has been signing a petition to ask the Trust to reconsider the closure. Landlords of the property had to issue a statement denying rumours the move was due to a rent hike.

Your photos: Thanet in 2017

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