Tuesday, 5 May 2009


As we await the Government's advice to wash our hands and to use a handkerchief when sneezing, to drop through our letterboxes, I would like to put up two items sent to 'Strife'.
I am delighted to print John Howard's take on TDC's actions in respect of a perfectly legitimate and Planning Officer approved application for a 'Games Centre' in Birchington and TDC's attitude to development in Pierremont Park, Broadstairs.
When the Pierremont Park scheme to create a Broadstairs Community Centre started some years ago the trustees included a number of local councillors. When it was realised that the same councillors would be part of the planning process they were asked to step down as there would clearly be a clash of interests here. This they duly did leaving the trustees to try to get planning permission and funding.
Moving on a bit the residents in the roads surrounding Pierremont Park wanted to preserve this much-used public space for the benefit of all despite attempts by other vested interests to try to claim it was never frequented by locals or visitors. They obviously hadn't called by during lunch-times or Folk Week when it most certianly was in use.
The original plans would have created a large, over-powering building totally at odds with the splendour of Pierremont House and would have led to the removal of many mature trees. A petition signed by 5000 residents was presented with a plea to save the park from development. At a public meeting Cllr. Zita Wiltshire was seen wagging a finger in the face of a protester accompanied by the words 'it doesn't matter what you want, it'll go ahead'.
Permission was granted for a smaller project that seems to have stalled for lack of funding. Part of the finances depend on the sale of land fronting Alexandra Road by TDC, not yet accomplished. There are still concerns over parking, whether or not there will be a bar, whether there is a demand from local organisations for such a venue. Similar community centres have suffered from lack of long-term funding and vandalism. The aim was to replace Retort House in the Albion Street car park, a building much neglected by TDC in recent years. Admittedly it did need much word done but it was well-used by a badminton group and a stage school. retort House is scheduled for demolition to create more car parking spaces.
Move forward some time to Birchington where a developer wants to create an 'amusement centre' from an empty shop. Local activists get together, meetings are held, councillors lobbied, letters written to the press just as in Broadstairs but outcome this time? Rejection by the committee and jubilation from the anti-group. What's different this time? The only changed aspect seems to be that the local Tory councillors spoke against the scheme at the planning committee but supported the community centre in Broadstairs.
Perhaps they'd like to explain the difference between their approach to the two schemes?"
I hope that Malcolm Rowlett's appeal to an Independent Planning Inspector is successful; there are no reasons on Planning Grounds to not grant his application in Birchington, other than a bad case of NIMBYISM in Birchington. I find it amazing that the good citizens of Birchington get more excited about the use of a shop on their High Street than the over-development of Thanet by Infratil, CGP or Thanet Earth!
That leads me to Walter's contribution from Ramsgate , quite nicely:
There's a hole in the corporate plan dear TDC, dear TDC,
There's a hole in the plan dear TDC, a hole.

So fix it dear Developer, dear Developer, dear Developer
So fix it dear Developer, dear Developer, fix it.

With what shall I fix it, dear TDC, dear TDC,
With what shall I fix it, dear TDC, with what?

With a sale of assets dear Developer , dear Developer, dear Developer,
Or with straw, dear Developer, dear Developer, with straw.


chris wells said...

A somewhat tortured, and probably self serving comparison, if O may say so Bertie.

The protest against the community centre in Broadstairs never doubted the need for a community centre, but disputed its positioning in Pierremont Park. In many ways their voice meant a better building in the end, better positioned, although the difficulty remains, as it always has, the future of Age Concern's, continuing occupation of a building not truly fit for purpose. Using their footprint as well means a return of some parkland and a better fit with existing buildings.

In Birchington I can only comment as an observor, there is no crying community need for a games centre, but I believe your correspondent is correct, in that there are limited or no planning grounds to reject the application and it is likely to be overturned upon appeal - reasons used in the past by officers to plead no rejection as the costs come directly back to the council tax payer.

Strange though. In Broadstairs your correspondent claims cllrs bad for not listening to the protest: in Birchington cllrs bad for listening to the protest. Really cant win can we!

Anonymous said...

Birchington Councillors are NIMBYs until it comes to their own developments and interests then they stick it in anyone's backyard regardless of impact.

Anonymous said...

Tut, tut, some bad grammar in your headline (should be "off" instead of "of"!).

Bertie Biggles said...

Thanks for your thoughts Cllr Wells. One is reminded of not being able to please all the people all of the time.

08:55, thanks for that; now corrected.

Broadstairs resident against Pierremont Park development. said...

I don't know who the people are who support a community centre in Broadstairs as there are, in fact, many venues available for hire.

The community centre was never going to be free to use and would have had to compete on hire charges with for example, the three halls at St. Peter's Church, the Memorial Hall also in St. Peter's and the various other halls around the place. All schools have halls suitable for badminton, dance classes etc and would be glad of the extra revenue. St. Peter's School hires out its facilities. Thanet College uses schools, church halls etc for their community programme.

What was never clear was who would use the centre other than the Masque Stage School,reportedly promised a reduced rent (rumour, perhaps), and the badminton ladies from the Retort House.

I think there is a genuine feeling that Cllr. Wells must know about as he was lobbied by residents, that this was being driven by others more self-serving that your original contributer.

The point about the comparison is surely that councillors in one case ignored locals and refused to consider other sites, the Birchington councillors supported the protesters.

There are clearly no valid planning grounds for refusing the Birchington application but environmental ones could have prevented the Broadstairs plan being approved.

There was real concern that the Broadstairs venue would become just another licensed premise in a totally unsuitable position.

There was no long-term vision and it has been reported in the local press that similar community centres have suffered from vandalism, neglect as there is insufficient income to cover maintenance.