Posted by: Peter Scott | January 13, 2015

What Is Wrong With Thanet?

Well that title can be taken many ways. It could be a plaintive “get your act together, Thanet!” or perhaps an appraisal of the issues that make Thanet a bit of a mess. I suppose it’s up to you to decide which.

Historically, Thanet is a real place, it was an island sitting on the corner of the Thames Estuary; the Wantsum Channel and the end of the river Stour forming some 600m of separation from the “mainland”.

Thanks to silting the island is no longer an island. It is hard to see those boundaries now. Metaphorically, we also have political silting. The lines of government are clogged with rubbish. This of course a problem of years back. Thanet has three major towns: Ramsgate, Margate, and Broadstairs and when the local government changes of 1974 kicked in the three local councils and the rural district council that looked after the villages and fields around were forced to become a cohabiting family. A family with squabbles, squabbles mainly about whether Ramsgate or Margate should wear the trousers. Broadstairs sits at home tutting about her dysfunctional family and thinking “why me?” Being dysfunctional, nothing really gets done, or rather what gets done is too late and shambolic.

Worse still Ramsgate and Margate seem to have invited their grandparents to share the granny annex. They sit there gazing out of the window, wistfully wanting the return of the days of red East Kent Road Car Company’s coaches bringing loads of Londoners to the beach for their summer break; even the charabancs of day trippers with their crates of brown ale. Oh, and the paddle steamer from London. Sadly, the people that made those trips are long gone. So what is the point of hoping that ladies in stripy ankle length bathing dresses will return to take the waters from their bathing machines? The world moves on, and so should we.

It is the bickering of the two spoilt child-towns that really drags Thanet down; neither being willing to concede anything that helps the whole. Silly ideas and impulse buys stretch the family budget, and more bickering over whose fault it was, and it was never “me”.

Thanet should function as whole, but something is missing, and this some form of cohesion linking the bits together. Some might argue that Westwood Cross is at the centre of things,a hub that is the focus of moving around Thanet, but that too is silted up. Five shopping complexes (7 if you count outliers like Farmfoods and the new Sainsburys) all linked together by a traffic jam. A traffic jam that makes the short distance from Ramsgate to the hospital a life-threating age.

How can a shopping centre be the most important part of a community? In truth, it can’t!

What is needed is an attitude to get things done, to create sustainable real jobs that brings new money into the community. If we want that kind of future we need a vision and a plan to get there; and, of course, a way to avoid all those snake oil sellers and frauds that attempt to sell you the moon for sixpence, people whose business plan is to extract money from communities with no risk or effort on their part, be they seaside landlords or property speculators. 

A functional council needs a functional plan and a leadership that leads, and one that remembers that councillors are there to implement the will of the electorate and not follow some faulty dogma that wants the world return to a past glory. We want a council that grows and prospers over successive council terms, not one that just rearranges the deck chairs on Titanic District Council as there is no need to anything since a election is coming.

If Thanet had an “our song” would you want it to be “Too Much, Too Little, Too Late”?

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