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5th November 2008

Comments from Howard Slight

As a resident of Ramsgate for 6 years. I am caused to write to you and to draw to your attention some observations I have made during this time, both from the position of a concerned resident, as a visitor with potential business interests, a new resident or as a holidaymaker. Particularly after reading in the “Isles” magazine, issue no. 13 for Autumn 2008 about the “Seaside Revival –Breathing new life into Margate” emblazoned on it’s front cover. Immediately followed by an article in the Thanet Gazette newspaper about the impending closure of our museums. Particularly the East Kent Maritime Museum in Ramsgate!

On arriving on the outskirts of Ramsgate, coming down the Thanet Way from Herne Bay. One finds the really good dual carriageway ends at the Manston roundabout. Having just passed massive earthworks, the Planet Earth Project. A new investment to provide employment via the growing, in environmentally friendly greenhouses, vast quantities of tomatoes, peppers, and salad crops. A potential asset for the local economy. Also a higher return on the investment than traditional crops!

You now find on your right a newly refurbished Motel opposite a new garage / supermarket complex serving the needs of the out of town commuting travelers .A new asset to this part of Thanet. Particularly when you are aware that to the left of this roundabout is to be found the developing road infra structure to support a new industrial estate. This is to include a new initiative known as the China Gateway, a development to support the importation of Chinese manufactured products, which will be closely aligned to the expected expansion of the Kent International Airport with more freight and passenger services. All good economic sense for the future. Albeit the risk of increasing levels of air noise and pollution of the skies and roads, does give rise to complaints from the established local residents who quite naturally would wish to continue to live in their rose cottage village environment. A some-what selfish biased tunnel visioned outlook as to the future prosperity of the local economy.

Continue towards Ramsgate on what is now a narrow single lane “a” class road alongside the fencing of the airport. A road that really ought to be a dual carriageway like the previous section. There is plenty of room for it. One can always tell that you are nearing Ramsgate by the smell of the cauliflowers growing in the fields on the other side of this road.

Glancing to your right, you will see on the road from Sandwich, conflicting images of the Richborough power station now derelict and nearby the unused modern high tech. wind powered electricity generator. Why are they remaining? Maybe monuments to past and future technologies. On this same now narrow “a” road (should be dual carriageway) from Sandwich to Ramsgate you will pass on your right a Viking Longship; a full scale historical copy of one that arrived here, many years ago and acts as a reminder of our heritage. Recently having undergone a major rebuild due to the ravages of time, wind and rain, neglect and lack of preventative maintenance. A pity that at great expense our harbour resources could not provide the skills or resources to do the restoration locally. At huge expense it was put on to a low loader and transported all the way to Gloucester. Whilst in this vicinity, should you care to look over the cliff edge, you would see what remains of the long redundant base structure of the Hoverport, car park, and landing/launching apron for the hovercrafts and customers transport. Now sadly left to nature to gradually cover it over and hide these embarrassing remains .Why not clean it up, there is a road onto the site with adequate parking and make a country park of it then link it up to the excellent nature reserve of nearby Pegwell Bay? 

This Sandwich road now shortly joins up with the other road from Manston at what is known as the “Lord of the Manor” roundabouts. Cliffs End is this area, where there must be some very in depth consultation as to the way ahead to improve this major junction. Which at present causes a major hold up to traffic flow at peak periods The village of Cliffs End with its large fuel depot, garage and the railway bridges will be involved. These junctions are the main arteries to feed Ramsgate and Manston Airport from the Dover area and from the northwestern area of the Thames gateway, and Medway towns etc. What is in the future planning process for this extremely important complex key road, rail, and airport links whose improvement will through time prevent major traffic congestion and help in the regeneration of Ramsgate’s economic future?

The next section of road, a user-friendly wide section, leads into Ramsgate with a roundabout which feeds a road tunnel servicing vehicle access to Ramsgate’s commercial harbour. This tunnel is real asset to the town as it diverts heavy lorrey movements away from the town centre. However, smaller visiting tourist traffic from and to the ferries also has to use this route, and miss out the opportunity to visit Ramsgate without a long diversion. There was a minor route under the cliffs immediately out of the commercial harbour which allowed access to the town and marina, but has been closed except for periods when there is a need to close the tunnel. If this shorter route had been designated a road for light traffic only, then there would have been an opportunity to allow tourists to experience our town easily and maybe provide a source of income to the towns traders. Why cannot this route be reinstated as described?

Continuing on into Ramsgate via the cliff tops, Royal Esplanade, or Government acre at Westcliff. A nice green recreational area overlooking the harbour and Pegwell Bay. A croquet club, a bowling club, a small boating lake, with an exhibition hall badly in need of refurbishment and café serving the users needs. This is a nice area, but sadly is let down by the poor neglected shelters with their tattered roofs, broken windows and damaged seating. Not at all reflective of the title “Royal Esplanade”, but a stark example of the degeneration of property by vandals and or neglect by our council services. Sadly this state of affairs continues onwards. Past the now unused car museum and rotting buildings and gardens onto Nelson Crescent, a striking stretch of Victorian/ Regency architecture, constantly being maintained by their owners, but sadly let down by the squalid public shelters, whose only purpose other than to cause embarrassment is to house the itinerant dropouts and their effluent! Surely those charged with presenting a well-groomed appearance to the general public could find some time and resources to keep them in a presentable state. How about assistance from the probation services and their charges with community service hours to be worked out, be given this worthwhile task, what price a pot of paint? The other option would be to remove completely these decaying edifices to times gone past, and once and for all save further maintenance cost’s and removing a continuing eyesore.

A diversion down the steps known as “Jacobs Ladder” to the Ramsgate Harbour marina will show halfway down, a boarded up doorway, which once lead to the clubrooms of the British Sub-Aqua Club. Now dispersed and a loss of a very useful resource in this marine environment! Because of the removal of the council subsidy towards their rental of the premises, which are now empty and not producing any income, with the building now materially falling into disrepair. It seems there is a poor letting philosophy, which prevails, some rent is better than no rent!

To continue around the harbour, a Royal Harbour no less, with a maritime history to be proud of, especially its involvement with the recovery of our troops from Dunkirk during that sad period of World War 2, and the base of the little ships that so assisted. How many visitors are reminded of this when they look about the harbour? They can see an extremely decaying tug, sat in a disagreeable pond of debris; consider the extremely well presented fishing boat on display immediately outside the railway station in Ostende, Belgium. They can see a run down pier end restaurant; consider the total new build restaurant presently nearing completion at Deal pier. They can see a sand bank, restricting access by deep draft vessels into the harbour at low water. A lack of prudent on going planned maintenance by the harbour authority. A real embarrassment and inconvenience especially to our waterborne visitors. They can see an old wreck of a generator that ‘may start at any time” rotting away at the foot of the harbour control tower, why is it left there? Its presence confirms a lack of care and presentation of this locality. They can see an empty “Casino” now used as a site for drug, wino and graffiti specialists to congregate. Please Mr. Wetherspoon show us how to open up this wonderful location with potential picture windows offering magnificent views over our sandy beach. It could become an asset to be proud of! They can see the old Customs House, a beautiful red brick building now used as a store, with weeds at the front door and badly cracked drain pipes, how can this be allowed to continue in such a high exposure location. Allow the Tourist Information office make better use of it. shared with the Harbour Offices and other organizations like the Sea Cadets etc. Shared rental reduces overheads, makes use of a building in distress and gives the public better access. More recently we are told of the possible selling off of the museum building. a real historical gem of a building of great character with its clock tower. How dare the idea of selling off what must be a priceless focal point of the whole harbour. It’s like selling the family jewels. If a museum cannot support its running expenses then why not incorporate the Tourist Information office from its hidden cloistered backwater, as well as the Ramsgate Partnership facility. The harbour offices could also get a more prominent exposure at this location as well as many other societies and local groups. Thus making savings from the rental etc, of those resources. How can those responsible for the area, its environment be allowed to continue with these examples of obvious neglect? “Ramsgate Royal Harbour’ as used by many advertisers, looks spectacular at night when the twinkle of the lights reflects this fairy tale image. But, beware the shadows and the cold clear light of day, which exposes a real degeneration of what was the “Jewel in the Crown” of Thanet. I am sad to say that I am ashamed to take my visiting friends and family for a walk around this urban decay! How many others are there who visit and never return?

Continuing onwards to the eastern edge of Ramsgate, which for the purpose of this article will finish at the entrance to the park, renowned for its parrot population. One will pass on the way, a bandstand, which is rarely used. The Granville Theatre and cinema, a worthy asset to our community arts resources. This cliff top promenade has a mix of flowerbeds and rock gardens, which are also built in to the cliff face where a sculpted stairway leads you down to the lower beach promenade.

Going further to the east, either via the cliff top or on the beach leads on to Dumpton Gap, a delightful beach area followed by Broadstairs with its enviable active community from which Ramsgate’s occupants could learn a great deal!

This article, which could be described as a jaundiced critique, is only one person’s view of Ramsgate and its environs, and I am sure that others have different views. My intention is, although in part it is meant to be provocative, will I hope, promote awareness, provoke thought, discussion or action as deemed worthy. It may even help to clarify in peoples minds whether there is a need for a Ramsgate Parish council as is enjoyed by Broadstairs, and other Thanet area’s to address local issues, provide a platform for the residents and bring their issues to the fore in the Thanet Councils deliberations. I am sure Ramsgate has been sadly neglected, when I comes to prioritizing action. Other wise, why does it show such glaring examples of neglect? There is more to Thanet than Margate (The Turner Center. Dreamland and all that) that needs investment and action!
Yours most sincerely,  Howard D. Slights 2 PRIORY COURTYARD
CT11 9PW

Dear Howard,
The points you make are certainly pertinent. Do not expect everyone to agree with you. One of the best ways to get people on your side is to accommodate their views alongside your own. For instance, it is not unreasonable, for example, that someone who has lived in a Rose Cottage for most of his life, might fight to keep it so. That is often the problem with planning decisions - someone loses out. The trick is to find a way that minimizes hurt.
Certainly you have highlighted what has concerned the people of Ramsgate for some time. That is why I set up Ramsgate First. Having campaigned fruitlessly to move the District Council to positive action and to stop the developments that they knew would hurt rather than help the town I knew we had to find some positive way of giving Ramsgate a new sense of direction. The Petition and the Referendum showed that the people of Ramsgate were ready for change, even at a cost, and this was illuminating and heart-warming. The town needs people like yourself who will put the interests of the town uppermost in their action and thoughts. I'll upload your pics and comments onto our website. Be prepared for criticism.
Gerry O'Donnell


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