Wednesday, 29 June 2011

The truth will out.

Following the 'revelation' by the Courier newspaper that a well known Tunbridge Wells' person was a 'racist' there has been no response on the letters page.  Of course, there may have been responses which have not been published.  Certainly the person castigated in the newspaper has not been granted a right of reply.

One of the issues mentioned by the paper as being an example of racism was a comment by the person 'outed' as a racist that white children were at risk from Asian men.

Low and behold what do we read today and have paraded across BBC News.  Follow the link:

In particular may I draw your attention to this paragraph from the article:

Earlier this year, the former Home and Justice Secretary Jack Straw said that while offenders came from all backgrounds, there was a specific problem of young Pakistani men targeting white girls because they regarded them as "easy meat".

Now, I haven't noted Jack Straw being castigated as a racist, yet our local press had an hysterical outburst against the local resident who said much the same as Jack Straw.

As I have stated before, the problem of grooming is not confined to one ethnic group but, as the BBC said in a news item, the proportion of Asian men involved in grooming is higher than the proportion of Asian men in the UK population.

It is easy to stifle debate by using the epithet 'racist' against someone who raises serious  inconvenient issues.  Admittedly the resident 'liked' on Facebook a joke that I and I am sure many others would consider to be in very poor taste. However, 'ironic' comedians (Frankie Boyle springs to mind) utter jokes in appalling taste and are defended by the media.

The main issue though is not who perpetrates these vile activities but why it is permitted to happen.  Child protection legislation and statutory agencies have failed the children.  It is a scandal.  One can only hope that there has not been a reluctance to act for fear of being branded racist.  Unfortunately there are reports from Lancashire that this was indeed the case.

Saturday, 25 June 2011

The future of Tunbridge Wells

The local press carries letters from people expressing opinions about the future of Tunbridge Wells.  One is from Ptolemy Dean who, apart from having a rant at a former elected councillor, doesn't have much to say except that Tunbridge Wells is better than  Maidstone or Ashford.  Another writer pleads for the extension of the Pantiles cafe culture.

What is needed is definition of what is the supposed character of Tunbridge Wells it is sought to defend and/or enhance.  More specifically, how will this character be diminished by the redevelopment of the civic complex and former cinema sites?

Seems to me that much of what has been said so far is the special pleading of a small group of elitist snobs which has little relevance to the needs of majority and certainly no regard for the future prosperity of the town.

Noise, noise, noise

I was delighted to read that Gravesham Council has confiscated the audio equipment of a twerp who was broadcasting to the neighbourhood from his home. Councils should be far more pro-active in dealing with the problem of noise.

Where I live we have the following noise pollution

  • Parties in gardens accompanied by very loud music until the early hours of the morning.
  • The idiot wannabe drummer parading his lack of ability to the neighbourhood.
  • The Rusthall FC Football Fayre: two days of incessant loudspeaker use.  Could be heard over a half mile radius.
An issue for our parish council to get stuck into?  I am not holding my breath.

Friday, 24 June 2011

Rusthall Parish Council Clerk

According to the local newspaper Rusthall Parish Council has an 'interim clerk' who will be in post until May 2012. The clerk is Paul Cummins. He works for Tunbridge Wells Borough Council.

Is the Parish Council paying Mr Cummins or is the Borough Council subsidising the Parish Council? Is Mr Cummins doing this on a voluntary basis?

Perhaps we should not read too much into the fact that Mr Cummins will be in post until next May.  The inference I draw is that the parish Council is not going to receive sufficient funding in the current financial year to employ its own clerk.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011


My local Conservative Association is on a recruitment drive for potential candidates for local elections. It has published a press release which contains the following:

'Nicholas Rogers, the Association’s Deputy Chairman with responsibility for campaigning said,

“Across the Borough there are hundreds of people with much to offer. Some of our most successful candidates in recent years have come from outside the usual political structures.
This initiative is designed to reach those people who would not normally consider themselves as politicians and is a good example of David Cameron’s Big Society. “ '

Think I will go to the meeting people are invited to attend.

Rusthall Parish Council

I missed the June meeting of the parish council as I was on holiday in Somerset.  Set me thinking though.  How do I get to see the minutes of council meetings?  Some parish councils send a copy of the minutes to the local library and/or have a website from which it is possible to download agendas, minutes etc.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Rusthall Blues

So, only two members of the public attended the first meeting of Rusthall Parish Council following the annual meeting.  Much as might be expected, given the boring nature of most parish council business. Two is better than none, as often was the case at meetings of Tunbridge Wells Borough Council until Roy Bullock agitated the local citizenry.

The view expressed by a local resident that the failure of the public to attend does not bode well is wide of the mark. I imagine there will be a good turnout when a contentious matter is on the agenda.

The newly elected Borough councillor for Rusthall, Victor Webb, has weighed in with the comment that the majority of people did not want a parish council. Admittedly, most residents did not bother to express an opinion during the consultations, but of those that did a big majority were 'for' a parish council.  Using Cllr Webb's logic, the majority of people did not want him as a Borough councillor.

Cllr Webb points out that 40 people attended the Village Association AGM and asserts there is more appetite for the association than the parish council.  The difference between the two is that the former is a voluntary organisation and people can speak at meetings.  The parish council is a statutory body elected by residents at which members of the public only have limited speaking rights. Different as chalk and cheese.

Let's wait and see how the parish council performs, that is how it will be judged.  Why be so negative at this early stage in the council's life?

As I stated in an earlier blog, the funding farce is a disgrace. The received wisdom was that Tunbridge Wells Borough Council would make available a repayable loan of £40,000 to tide the parish council over the first year.  TWBC has offered a 'gift' of £500 and presumably the £40,000 will become available once the parish council has drawn up a financial plan.  It is sensible to have a financial plan and the difficulty is that until the council came into being it could not agree a plan.   Presumably the £500 will pay for essential expenditure for a couple of months by which time the financial plan could be in place. I agree with Councillor Webb, TWBC should have been more pro-active in preparing a draft financial plan, particularly as the Leader of TWBC was one of the staunchest supporters of the proposal to form a parish council.

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Further vindication for local man accused of racism

I have commented at some length on the 'expose' of a resident of Tunbridge Wells as a racist by the local newspaper. The initial report was spread across three pages of the local paper and included a large photograph on the front page.  The paper has continued to report on this.

The person concerned has been given no right of reply.

Two matters have arisen in the past few days which add credibility to the comments made by the person vilified in the paper.

The first is to be found in the following link:

The second is this report in the Daily Telegraph:

A group of Asian men "trafficked, raped or sexually abused" young girls, after bombarding them with gifts and attention, a court was told yesterday.

The nine, who were mostly married, joined forces with some acting as pimps, others used their homes as brothels and some using them as prostitutes.

The men, all from Telford, Shropsbire, were charged with a total of 56 counts relating to eight girls aged between 13 and 17.

When the Tunbridge Wells' resident claimed these things were happening he was accused of being 'racist'. Earlier this month a number of Asian men were arrested in Rochdale for similar offences.

Manchester police have made further arrests:

We shall have to wait to learn if the arrested people in Manchester are, to use the Daily Telegraph's word,  'Asian'.  What has happened in Rochdale and Telford gives credibility to what the Tunbridge Wells' resident said. 

The prosecuting counsel in the Telford case warned the jury that, as the trial unfolded, they would be introduced to a world "that I expect few of you were aware of".  Clearly the editor of the local newspaper is not aware (really?), or if he is, it shows how easy it is to attempt to stifle debate by playing the racist card.  Yet here we are talking about a massive failure of child protection procedures to which some would have us close our eyes, as to comment is 'racist'.

Back from my hols.

My, hasn't  a lot been happening in the world this week?  We go away for five days and return to read that Greece is in  an even worse mess, that the UK government is making 'U-turns' and the Jeremiahs are focusing their attention on Rusthall Parish Council.

We enjoyed visiting Bridport, West Bay, Lyme Regis, Abbotsbury and Forde Abbey.  Enjoyed the Flowers and Tribute ales.  We stayed near Crewkerne and found an excellent establishment for our evening meals - the George in the centre of Crewkerne.  Spent some time  browsing in second hand bookshops and acquired a few tombs on railway history.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Racism: an abused word.

Let's get one matter out in the open.  My Facebook site is eclectic and by that I mean I publish posts and comments from a very wide spectrum of political and religious opinion.  Some of the material on my page is not politically correct (PC): indeed many of my opinions would not be regarded as PC by the PC brigade - an intolerant bunch masquerading as liberals.   But then I have always believed in calling a spade a spade - or is that non-PC and should I write shovel?

Racism, as was to be found in South Africa and the United States of America where people were (in the USA in some aspects still are) discriminated against solely on the colour of  their skin, has no place in a modern 21st century society and is to be fought against. Nor has discrimination based on class, faith beliefs or nationality.   In this regard I may be regarded by some as a weepy liberal, but for me the starting position is 'treat others as you would wish to be treated' and that I think is not far from the position taken by the vast majority of citizens in the UK.  We have a reputation for tolerance and calm under the severest provocation. Thousands died in the Second World War in defence of tolerant civilised society. The state in our country has not gone around murdering millions of its citizens or subjected peoples as happened with the USSR and Germany.

I do worry when I read reports in the press of the police being reluctant to act because they will be accused of racism.  The law should be applied without fear or favour, but unfortunately (to put it mildly) accusations of racism are hurled around and police action is tempered. If anything is likely to make racial tension worse it is a perception  that some in our society gain preferential treatment by playing the race card. 

However, we must not suppose that racism is not a problem in this country.  The issue is how to tackle it in a way which does not increase antagonism.  In order to do this we have to analyse the issues which raise tensions.  Racial tension is the symptom of underlying problems which have nothing to do with ethnicity, nationality or religious beliefs.  Until we tackle these issues the symptoms will persist.

The issues, in random order, include housing, employment, welfare benefits, over-stretched public services, multi-culturalism (in its widest sense) and immigration. Sadly debate on these issues is stifled often by playing the race card.  Until recently, it was almost impossible to discuss immigration without the epithet 'racist' being thrown round to stop debate. 

We need to debate these issues in a rational way, but it must not be used to threaten any individuals who have UK citizenship and settled expectations of a quiet life.  Until we have that debate the forces of intolerance will continue to flourish and spread their evil.

Worrying report on Tower Hamlets

I have written before on this blog concerning the sensationalist reporting by the Courier newspaper in Tunbridge Wells on the views expressed by a resident of Tunbridge Wells.

The resident's comments on the dangers posed by adherents of fundamentalist Islam were castigated as 'racist'.  The newspaper did not test the veracity of any of the resident's claims.  Since the item appeared in the paper articles have appeared in national newspapers (including one paper owned by the same organisation as the Courier) which support much of what the resident claimed.

The latest report is in today's Daily Telegraph.  Click here for the link to the report.

Pam Ayres

I enjoyed this:

Friday, 10 June 2011

The sage of Lamberhurst opines

Roy Bullock, the deposed Leader of Tunbridge Wells Borough Council and de-selected Conservative candidate, has broken cover and fired a salvo of shells at his opponents.  Welcome back Roy.

His subject matter is, as might be expected, the issues concerning the future of the civic complex. His letter, in today's Courier, takes careful aim at his opponents.

One target is the Aspic Brigade whom he describes as a vocal minority. His comment is scathing. The  M & N report on consultation on town centre sites has given publicity to more reasonable voices.....from a far wider age group. The Aspic Brigade does not represent a dominant view and no minority group should be able to wield a veto when the future of our borough is at stake.  The venom is palpable.

His second target is the current cabinet as he fears momentum could be lost.  The comments of Councillor Jukes, reported in my blog earlier today, do give the impression that matters are proceeding very slowly, hence my question: when?

His final shell is aimed at the new cabinet and the new leader: I just hope we have the leadership in place to see the scheme positively progressed in 2011.  Ouch.

Under Bullock's leadership the Council bungled the public information/consultation process, so much so that the economic arguments for redevelopment were lost in a welter of recrimination about process.   I see signs that the new leadership is committed to the economic objectives.  The consultation will be all the better for having a new Leader as it will be the issues that are discussed, rather than a consultation with the bear in the room.

I have been disappointed by the banal response of the Leader of the Liberal Democrats to the M & N report, describing it as a red-herring and a whitewash.  He criticises also  the report for not coming to a conclusion - how could it when there is such a diverse range of opinions?   I had hoped the Liberal Democrats would rise above political mud-slinging and engage in constructive dialogue about the economic future of the town. Their current tactic is to ally with the Aspic Brigade which I believe is misconceived.  the Aspic Brigade made the initial running and the Liberal Democrats jumped on the band-waggon. Unfortunately for the Liberal Democrats the N & M report does not show a predominance of support for the Aspic Brigade's view, hence the attempt by the Liberal Democrat Leader to rubbish the document.

Run-in with the planners

I was fortunate to be a councillor before the cabinet system was introduced. From time to time the planning committee would disagree with the recommendation of officers, quite rightly, as the committee does not exist simply to rubber-stamp the conclusion of officers. The chairman of the committee was 'a first amongst equals'  and in his/her role as chairman would hold meetings with the head of the council's planning department.

Since the introduction of the cabinet system we have now in Tunbridge Wells a cabinet member who holds the planning portfolio.  The relationship between the cabinet member and the planning department should be on strategic issues and not on individual applications.

The recent spat on a planning application in Pembury is disquieting. The application was to build on Green Belt and the argument was over whether or not to apply the special circumstances provisions to over-ride the presumption of no development on Green Belt land.

The planning committee decided to apply the special circumstances provisions and approve the application.  It is not clear what the recommendation of the planners was but the planners clearly did their duty in advising that special circumstances did permit development on Green Belt land.

Councillor Ransley is the cabinet member who holds the planning portfolio: the same person who had the barmy idea that some off-peak trains to London from Tunbridge Wells should terminate at Cannon Street.

It is a worrying state of affairs when the holder of the planning portfolio rails against officers giving impartial advice they are under an obligation to provide and against a decision of the planning committee having taken that advice into consideration.  Planning committees sit as 'quasi-judicial, bodies and have to consider each application on its merits in the context of planning law.

Councillor Ransley's claim that the 'matter of green belt must be the same for everyone' indicates a worrying ignorance of  planning law.  His notion that the decision in this application sets a dangerous precedent is ill-founded.  Previous decisions can be distinguished on the facts to neuter the effect of them on later ones and clearly the presumption against development on Green Belt land has to be overturned by the special circumstances of a particular application.

The inference I draw is that Councillor Ransley has attacked the impartiality and professionalism of the planners: now that is worrying.

Where's the dosh?

Rusthall residents believed that the newly formed Rusthall Parish Council would receive a loan of £40,000 from Tunbridge Wells Borough Council to tide it over the first year of operation, the reason being that no parish precept could be raised before the Council commenced functioning. Doubts as to this happening have surfaced.

It is reported that the Borough Council intends to make a 'gift' of £500 to the Parish Council instead of the loan,.

However a Borough Council officer is quoted as stating that the council had agreed to provide financial support to the parish council, to be repaid when the parish receives its precept instalment in April 2012

What I find surprising is that the parish council is intent on megaphone diplomacy, there is a meeting of the parish council next which the matter will be discussed. Quite why this issue has been trailed through the local press before the position is explained at next week's meeting defeats me.

The confusion is worrying and hardly inspires confidence.  Time for the Leader of the Borough Council, who represents Rusthall, to bang a few heads together in the two councils.

It is important to remember that it is public money.  My concern is that Rusthall Parish Council does not see £40,000 as an amount it must spend.  Obviously it needs to expend money on administration, room hire etc, but spare us vanity schemes.

Town Hall Dynamism:

I publish a report in this week's local paper:

Cllr David Jukes, deputy leader of the council, said: "The new cabinet has been in post for four months and I have been in my role as property and major projects portfolio holder for only two weeks since completing my duties as mayor.

"The thoughts we have on the future shape of the town are different to the previous cabinet and once we have crystallised our ideas they will be put to the council and the public forum before any major action is taken."


Localism: my opinions for what they are worth

The splendid MP for Tunbridge Wells, Greg Clark, is responsible for the government's localism agenda. This agenda is based on the idea that central government should devolve powers, duties etc down the chain to local government and communities. It is part of the mechanism for the 'Big Society', but is distinct from it.

Whilst I might have quibbles over some of the proposals, the general thrust is in the right direction.

Under Labour we have had a form of localism, the devolution of powers to governments in Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland. The unfinished business is how to deal with the West Lothian Question.  I favour the creation of an English Parliament. It is inequitable that the future arrangements of the NHS in England will be voted on by MPs from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. These MPs cannot vote on the NHS in their respective lands as health is a devolved matter. 

What could happen after the next general election is that a majority of English MPs vote on a purely English matter one way, but the vote is reversed when Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland  MPs votes are added. Of course, should Scotland gain independence (which I doubt will happen in the foreseeable future) then the problem is diminished but not resolved, as there will be still the Welsh and Northern Ireland MPs voting on English issues.

In Europe we have had the opposite of devolution. More and more power is gravitating to the European Union from member states.  The EU now has rights of representation at the United Nations and is opening 'embassies' across the world. There is talk of a president of the EU being directly elected.  These are the trappings of a state, to which may be added the pressure being brought to bear for a common fiscal policy across the EU.

The setting up of the eurozone had an inherent weakness in that there was a failure to establish a fiscal union. I am sure the mandarins in Brussels took the long view: it was a risk worth taking as it was a step along the road to greater union and the establishment of a European state.

So, let's have some real localism: establish an English parliament and take back powers ceded to the EU.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Further vindication of Adrian's opinions

My regular reader (hello) will recall that I have posted a number of blogs concerning Adrian who was the subject of  a three page 'expose' in the local newspaper including the whole of the front page.  He was accused of being racist.

The paper has continued to attack Adrian and claims that racial tension has risen in the area since it published the articles.  Obviously the paper does not see the irony that if had not published racial tension would not have risen.  Must say I have seen no signs of racial tension on my frequent visits to the area.

One of the points raised in the first article was Adrian's claim that an ethnic minority was grooming, or worse, young children. 

Below is a link to an item on the BBC today:

I think Adrian should send it to the local paper with a demand for an apology.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Vanishing buildings

Some people come over all nostalgic about buildings and mount campaigns to save them from the demolition ball.  The campaigns have little to do with the intrinsic merit of the building to be demolished and the plans for re-development but have more to do with memories of activities in the building or a sense of loss at a feature of the landscape disappearing.

It is a shock to return to places and note that the landscape has changed.

On a visit to Coventry I discovered that one of my watering holes, The Alhambra,  had disappeared. Chesterfield FC's ground at Saltergate has closed and doubtless will soon be replaced by an housing development.  Roker Park, for a long time the home of Sunderland FC, is now an housing estate.

Railway stations bring back memories of journeys.  Many stations I used in my younger days have gone: Sheffield Victoria, Nottingham Victoria, Whittington Moor, Chesterfield Central, Manchester Exchange to name but a few.

The industrial landscape has changed beyond recognition in many parts of the country: steel and iron works have gone, pits have closed, heavy manufacturing has disappeared.  In some locations it is hard to imagine what was there before.

We like old and familiar surroundings and when things change feel a sense of loss but of itself it is no basis for opposition to change.  Opposition often is based on personal selfishness rather than consideration for the wider need.  It is the former which I believe is the driving force of the ancients  seeking to preserve the Tunbridge Wells civic complex. 

The former Tunbridge Wells Council offices in Cranbrook are in the process of demolition.  My memories of  the building go back to the 1999-2000 when I chaired appeal panels hearing cases brought by residents against the decisions of the Council on housing benefit.   I am not to be drawn into the spat in Cranbrook concerning community facilities, but I am not bereft as the demolition ball swings at the offices, nor shall I should the civic complex in Tunbridge Wells be demolished.

As parts of our personal  heritage disappear, we may pause and regret their passing, but not for long as wallowing in nostalgia, for what has been, is self-defeating.

Monday, 6 June 2011

Pumping more money into Sherwood

Over the years a lot of money has been pumped into Sherwood, Tunbridge Wells, both capital and revenue.  Capital expenditure on the Little Forest Children's Centre and the TN2 Community Centre are two of the major projects.  Now Town & County Housing Association, the major social housing landlord in the area, is pumping money in as part of the Sherwood Regeneration Project (SRP).

One does wonder what the social return on this investment will be. The SRP did not get off to an auspicious start, with accusations of secrecy and failure to consult with the local populace. When two borough councillors spilt the beans they were hauled over the coals by the chief executive of the council  (as I commented on last year in this blog).

I have become more cynical about the value of regeneration projects, community development initiatives and community engagement schemes as they are 'top-down' usually and do not engage with the causes of problems.  Instead, they provide sticking plasters to put over the symptoms.

The past sixteen years had seen me working in areas of deprivation in Kent and East London and my cynicism is borne of experience of seeing projects, initiatives and schemes fail as they do not engage with the real issues and certainly do not provide solutions.

One only has to look at the indices of deprivation in Thanet to realise that years of investment have failed to produce significant improvements. The same can be said of others parts of Kent and indeed nationwide.  Why is this?  Will the Big Society and Localism produce a step change in improving well-being in areas of deprivation?  I have my doubts

Sunday, 5 June 2011

A visit to Sherwood.

No, not Sherwood Nottinghamshire, but Sherwood Tunbridge Wells.  A very warm day, unfortunately rather windy. Never mind, a call on the way at the Robin Hood public house put me in the right frame of mind to enjoy the Sherwood Carnival.

The highlight of the event was the procession.  The Tunbridge Wells town crier led the way, closely followed by a band of drummers which drowned out the crier's bell. Sandwiched between the two was the Deputy Mayor of Tunbridge Wells, John Smith and the Deputy Mayoress.  The Deputy Mayor wore his chain of office, but I did note that his jacket came off as the unremitting heat from the sun beat down on him and the rest of the procession.

Congratulations to John Smith for marching in the procession.  Just the thing I would expect of a man who was deselected by the Conservatives, stood as an Independent and beat comprehensively the Conservative candidate.

Apart from meeting long standing friends, my reason for the visit was to sniff the Sherwood air for signs of the racial tension which the local newspaper claims has risen following articles the paper published alleging that a couple of Sherwood residents were racists.  People of ethnic minority groups were circulating at the carnival and didn't give the impression of being tense, indeed everyone was very relaxed.  Now the paper would not claim that racial tensions were rising without any evidence would it?  Doubtless the evidence will be published, or won't it?

I commend the article that can be read by clicking on this link:

When I commented on the local newspaper's first article I wrote:

The real issues relate to deprivation, not race, and unless tackled minority groups will continue to be the scapegoats. It is the message we should be concerned about, not vilifying one of the messengers.

Sherwood has serious problems of deprivation and in my experience residents have not scapegoated minority groups.

Friday, 3 June 2011

A strange decision

When I was a councillor on Tunbridge Wells Borough Council I attended  once a fortnight meetings of the Western Area Planning Committee.  The morning was spent travelling round on a mini-bus looking at sites which were the subject of planning applications.  In the afternoon the committee met to determine the applications.  It was a long day, particularly if there were contentious and/or complicated applications.  We met at the Town Hall in Royal Tunbridge Wells.

Eastern Area meetings were held at the Council's offices in Cranbrook.  Following closure of the Cranbrook offices the meetings moved to Hawkhurst.

The reason Eastern Area meetings were not held in Royal Tunbridge Wells was for convenience.  The parties to applications, objectors and councillors did not have to traipse into Royal Tunbridge Wells. The planners had staff at Cranbrook who moved to Tunbridge Wells when the Cranbrook offices closed.  It was far better for a few officers to travel a long way to meetings rather than everyone except the officers.

The Council has taken the strange decision to hold Eastern Area meetings at the Town Hall.  Cue for protests from parish councils that they have not been consulted.

It is rather strange that at the very time the buzz words are 'localism', community engagement' and 'civic participation' Tunbridge Wells Borough Council is centralising a service and making it more difficult and expensive for residents to attend meetings.

Shaping up nicely

The borough council elections are eleven months away but already the thoughts of the political parties will be turning to Rusthall.

UKIP won its first seat on the council last May, winning the seat from the Conservative incumbent in Rusthall.  UKIP delivered three leaflets and the candidate canvassed many electors as well as 'pressing the flesh' on the high street. 

The Conservative campaign did not take off.  There will be a vigorous campaign next May as the sitting councillor is the Leader of Tunbridge Wells Borough Council.

The Liberal Democrats published the best election leaflet.  I thought they would win the seat repeating what happened in a by-election in Pembury where UKIP took votes from the Conservatives thus enabling the Lib Dems to win the seat from the Conservatives.  The Lib Dem candidate has been elected chairman of Rusthall Village Association and should he decide to stand next May will be in a far stronger position to win the seat.

Could be close and difficult to predict who might win.  The Labour Party may decide to contest the seat, after all the chairman of the parish council is a former Labour councillor on the Borough Council.

All this is good news for the residents of Rusthall as individuals and parties seek to gain support. Nothing like the prospect of a closely fought election to encourage the political parties to listen to the electorate and seek to gain its favour.

Rusthall Village Association news

Too often, candidates at local elections disappear after the election to be seen again only when the next election is pending.  Congratulations then to Tom Snook, the Liberal Democrat candidate in Rusthall for the borough council elections, for standing and being elected chairman of the Rusthall Village Association.

Congratulations also to Andy Richards on becoming Vice-Chairman, although the local newspaper is somewhat wide of the mark when it states he only 'just' failed to be elected to the parish council.

Quite flows the Don

From the Wicker Arches, through Attercliffe, Grimesthorpe, Brightside, Wincobank and Meadow Hall to Rotherham flows the River Don.  Along the valley ran competing railway systems, canals and tramways all to serve the steel industry and the communities huddled between the massive buildings producing steel.  If ever there were dark satanic steel mills they were to be found here.  And then it virtually all came to an end as global economic forces and government policies took effect.

I knew the area well. On a visit a few years ago I was stunned by the dereliction and decay.  Vistas that in my youth had seemed unchangeable had vanished.  Heavy industry and the support services it required had disappeared, almost.  Crossing the Tinsley viaduct the scene to left and right had been transformed.  Even the iconic cooling towers by the viaduct had been demolished.

Out of the ashes of heavy industry has sprung a cathedral to consumerism, the Meadowhall shopping centre: 1.4m sq. ft. and adjoining massive car parks.  Property developers have drawn up plans to turn Meadowhall into the UK's largest out-of-town shopping destination which will add 700,000 sq.ft of retail space, although not connected to the existing building.

The proposal has been driven, according to the Daily Telegraph, by the growing shift in retail expenditure from high streets to the internet and regional shopping centres.

How long before there is a proposed expansion of Bluewater?

The issue for towns in the catchment area of Bluewater has been always how to counter the competition and attract people to shop in the high streets. Maidstone has developed the Fremlin Centre, Ashford has  the new County Square complex, but what of Tunbridge Wells?  The Royal Victoria Place shopping centre has gone decidedly down market in recent years as the owners sweat the asset.

Royal Tunbridge Wells has two major eyesores: the empty supermarket opposite the railway station and the derelict cinema site opposite the town hall.  There are ideas for regeneration, policies, surveys and consultations.  The impression one gains is that the local council is beginning to tackle the regeneration issues with much more determination, but the fear is that the Aspic Brigade will dominate the debate and, should they win, sentence the town to slow economic decline. 

We need repeated the bold approach the council took to the development of the Royal Victoria Centre if we are to avert a significant decline in the town's economic prosperity.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

More YUK

As my regular reader knows I have an aversion to competitions to name the 'volunteer of the year', 'charity of the year' etc.

I commend the wheeze being promoted by ITV1 as a classic example of YUK.



Do you know an inspiring individual who has set up a small charity?

Do you know someone who has battled adversity but fundraises incessantly despite their own difficulties?

Is there someone who works tirelessly for others in your local community?

Would you like to reward a great volunteer in your local area?

Would you like to thank someone for an act of bravery or for saving someone’s life?

Do you know someone who has made great sacrifices to help others?

If you know someone who deserves to be recognised then please get in touch!

We ask that you do not tell the person or cause you have nominated as we would like this to be a surprise!