By Councillor Chris Cornell / JobsWelfare / / 0 Comments

My first impression of the Gateway for Sheppey was its location. It was the former Woolworths, band in the middle of the high street. It’s accessibility was excellent. It’s make over was fresh, modern and spacious. The facilities were set out on two floors, ground and first. Each floor had sets of disabled and child toilets. Services such as the library and computers on the first floor. A comprehensive array of advice services on the ground floor with a sitting area and cafe.

When you walked into the building, there was a large reception desk with the words ‘Meet and Greek’ in bold letters. On the desk was a trained receptions to guide and put clients at ease and make sure that they were directed to the right area. Children could read books or draw whilst their parents accessed services. Every social need was catered for; Mental Health, Domestic Abuse and Health charities hosted pop up surgeries on a weekly basis; the council were on hand to advise on housing, rates, planning roads and homeless issues. Food bank vouchers were available on request. Upstairs KCC floating support services and adult education teams had offices, with ‘return to work’ training available in the afternoons.

Under years of Conservative government, we have no direct access to public services. Tory austerity has nearly broken our community. In Whitstable we have become a disenfranchised community, not knowing where to get help or challenge anything which is being imposed on is.

Kent County Council has a number of under utilised buildings in our town; a proactive council could approach them to improve access to what KCC services we have and start up a Gateway or Hub which will centralise new advice services. It would help us gain access to services we have paid for! This is our right!

A high street hub would make the council more accessible, so why is Canterbury one of the only districts in Kent not to have them. The Council’s own community profile acknowledges that whilst Canterbury is relatively affluent, areas of Whitstable (Gorell, Seasalter) and Herne Bay (Greenhill and Eddington, Heron) are amongst the 20% most deprived areas in the country. So why is this council removing services from those most in need. I want what Sheppey and Margate have got for Whitstable.

By Canterbury Labour Group / Jobs / / 0 Comments

Oyster festival 2017 – Council re-tendering for a single year contract

Cllr Bernadette Fisher’s blog:
“I spoke last night on this at the Community Committee as a Ward councillor to say we should not go with the council officer recommended option which was to extend the existing contract by another year.

Feedback from Gorrell (central Whitstable) constituents is that the festival is too big, too lawless, too drunken, too polluting and too noisy. It has outgrown the town. Clearly its growth was deliberate on the organisers’ part and I can understand why they wanted this, but not here.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the festival atmosphere of Whitstable but I asked Councillors to support the re-tendering option as the only way to ensure that the festival next year fits the town and is properly prepared for. The option is to re-tender for a single year contract for 2017, scaled back and with conditions in the contract to address our infrastructure concerns.

Local businesses agree with this view. They see the festival now as making a lot of money for one or two big businesses and bringing more pain than gain for them and their customers. They told me, ‘Revenue is not always the best way to evaluate an event, adverse impact on the town and image of Whitstable should be paramount.’

Local feedback generally is that we need to take stock, scale down and be certain of sufficient infrastructure support before embarking on another festival. The upside is that Whitstable people care a lot about the town and want to be involved so let’s use that enthusiasm and knowledge. Our own WAMP (Whitstable Area Member Panel) is the obvious vehicle for this, working with local representatives and officers.

At the WAMP review on Sept 14th we heard from a local environmental group about environmental policies developed elsewhere to avoid the kind of disaster that befell the beach. They justifiably used the term ‘environmentally negligent’ to describe what happened and the scale of our obligation to do better next year. We even have the strap line, ‘don’t trash our beaches’.

Other policies which can be adapted from elsewhere that we need to develop and make conditions of the contract are on – policing (yes please – there was none this year the first weekend and no Councillor had been told this in advance); alcohol, including glass bottles; transport to encourage use of public transport and park and ride plus a ban on alcohol on trains-in; music and noise which effectively measures and limits levels especially late at night; and harbour standards. The latter is clearly required given the chronic over crowding, over-proliferation of alcohol on sale as part of the harbour ‘food’ fair and the bizarre assumption in the debrief we’d received that the harbour master and board can somehow make an industrial area safe for unlimited numbers of out of control adults and children to walk on.

I’ve written about this to the local papers as I thought their readers would want to know that their views prevailed and the committee went for the one year re-tender option. If, as officers fear, no provider comes forward in the time available, we will be content with that and provide support to community activities instead. So, let’s have an Oyster festival in 2017 but one that suits the town, the beach, the harbour and all the creatures who are lucky enough to live here.”

Bernadette Fisher
Canterbury City Councillor for Gorrell Ward.

By Canterbury Labour Group / Miscellaneous / / 0 Comments

Sir, Much has been said and written about the appalling decision on Tuesday April 26th by CCC’s planning committee to approve the developer’s plans for the Oval. In particular, it was suggested that there were ‘no planning grounds’ to object to the building of ‘Manhattan-on-sea’.  This could not be further from the truth.  Every point made by objectors, including my fellow Gorrell Ward Councillor Clark, was based on the Local Plan, the Conservation Area Appraisal, listed building status, guidance on street enclosure, national planning rules and previous CCC planning decisions such as the rejection of proposals for the neighbouring Leggetts Lane development. Committee members are told repeatedly in Local Plan documentation that ‘care must be taken’.  There was little evidence of this on Tuesday as the Chair repeatedly interrupted or spoke-over objectors but listened in silence to speakers in favour. When it came to their deliberations, issues of overlooking which had been ignored in the officer Report, were glibly dismissed by Councillors with suggestions of screening and opaque glass, none of which were properly described or justified as resolving the shocking invasion of privacy that these proposals represent for comparatively tiny neighbouring properties. I don’t know what they think they have approved.  Only time will clarify this.  But where does this leave our planning authority?  Knowingly enclosing and making ‘less visible’ its important nationally listed buildings like The Sail Lofts?  Pushing through plans which by-pass its own Local Plan provisions for 30% social housing?  Agreeing a mixed-use development which changes the mix from that in its own Local Plan including by failing to guarantee the employment it had hitherto insisted on?  Ignoring rules on the ratio of building height to road width (in Sea St) to create a canyon of a road and Manhattan-on-sea?  Forgetting its own responsibility to avoid the creation of future blots-on-the-landscape like Windsor House and the Courts building?  Refusing to take any notice of our wonderful Conservation Area Appraisal.  Creating a public open space which will be almost permanently in the shade of the solid, over-scale mass of the block? Unforgivably, the debate failed to acknowledge the carefully argued proposals to improve the plans from the official consultee the Whitstable Society, preferring to hide behind the apologists’ allegation that all objectors were NIMBYs opposed to any development.  What a great vision for the Oval the WS describes with a usable public open space, a kiosk in a far-less intrusive location, housing of varying sizes that would produce sunlight and shade all around, retaining the view through to our listed buildings, and even some extra parking!  By incorporating these, amongst other suggestions from our community, we could create a proud legacy for ourselves, the Council and the developer.  That’s why the struggle against Manhattanon-Sea is far from over.  Watch this space!