Thanet & East Kent Insider
3rd September 2011 Issue No.: 169
1. Business Networking Breakfast
2. Herald Of Free Enterprise
The East Kent coastal business community was represented on 26th August 2011 on the BBC in the programme The Reunion, repeated several times on Radio 4. The broadcast brought together some key figures from the Zeebrugge Ferry disaster of 6th March, 1987. Many of our members will recall the chilling developments as news seeped through during the following few days to reveal 193 fatalities from among the passengers and crew. The Chairman of Thanet & East Kent Chamber, Dr Bill Moses MBE, speaks movingly of the effect on the surviving seafarers, many of whom could never again go to sea. Bill also chairs Dover Counselling Centre which continues to minister to the families who lost loved ones on that terrible night. Presenter Sue MacGregor handles the panel discussion with great sensitivity and insight. The recording lasts 45 minutes and can be accessed by clicking on http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/console/b013fk5s, fast forward to 0:2:20. Any Chamber members new to the area may find that the broadcast will give them an insight into an event that that is still very much in the minds of anyone in East Kent at the time. The subsequent inquest under the expert direction of Kent Coroner Richard Sturt returned verdicts of unlawful killing. The sinking of the Herald of Free Enterprise led to significant developments in maritime safety and was a significant factor in subsequent public liability legislation and the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998.
3. Sue MacGregor And The Facts
In The Reunion broadcast featured above at item 2, Sue MacGregor says: “This was the worst British peacetime maritime disaster since the sinking of the Titanic in 1912”. It wasn’t, or at least it wasn’t if you consider that the First World War ended on Armistice Day on 11th November 1918. On 1st January 1919, HMY Iolaire sank off the coast of Stornaway with the loss of 205 lives, mostly servicemen who had survived the horrors of the Western Front or the U boats that menaced the Atlantic convoys, see www.adb422006.com/iolaire.html. It can be argued that WWI did not formally finish until the signing of the Treaty of Lausanne on 24th July 1923. Sue MacGregor, one of the brightest stars of Radio 4, is excused; after all, her father did serve with the 14th Army in Burma. Chamber members will have their own corporate policy on whether to allow their workforce to respect two minutes of silence at 1100 hrs on Friday, 11th November 2011. It is worth remembering that 1.7 million people died in the service of Britain in WWI and WWII. Two minutes of our time is not a lot to ask, is it SWIFT Codes for all Banks in Australia ?
4. Thanet District Council
The Chamber Chairman and Chamber Chief Executive enjoyed a full discussion at a meeting last week with Thanet District Council’s Cllr Bob Bayford and Sue McGonigal. The matters under review covered a wide range of subjects including planning and support for local business. It was agreed that the meeting between Thanet’s largest business support body and TDC’s Leader and Chief Executive had been most useful. Both the Chamber and TDC look forward to future meetings where support for local business will again be at the top of the agenda.
5. Hornby Hobbies
The Chamber was a delighted guest of Hornby last week and treated to a personal guided tour of its latest development at Westwood, Margate by its inspiring Operations Manager and Monckton Parish Councillor, Nick Cole. Anyone who doubts the commitment of Hornby to Thanet’s economy should see the new Visitor Centre in Margate. The stunning displays on offer will delight visitors of all ages, from the grandparents who will recognise the toys of their youth to the youngsters who will relate to models from their favourite films and television programmes. Make no mistake; this is a world-class company that posted a turnover in the last financial year of £63.4 million. Readers will be familiar with many of its proprietary brands such as Scalextric, Corgi, Humbrol and, of course, Hornby. Less familiar to those who do not scan the Financial Times or European toy catalogues are Electrotren, Riverossi, Joeuf, Lima and Arnold. Spotting the differences in manufacturing processes between the models of the toy makers in the Hornby group is one of the joys for the visitor. An unexpected delight for many will be the Cathedral Models Exhibitions. Constructed on a scale of 60 feet to one inch, they were built at the behest of royal composer and organist Sir Herbert Oakley (1830-1903) by the somewhat mysterious architect, William Gorringe. If in the next six months you are not able to visit Lincoln, Exeter, Chester, Hereford, Westminster Abbey, Cologne, Rome’s St Peter’s or any of the twenty other cathedrals on display, then you should see this magnificent collection while it is still at the Hornby Visitor Centre. Proving its community credentials to a wider audience, Hornby restored and refurbished the Cathedral models prior to an exhibition at the Sir John Sloane’s Museum in London. It is not only the owner of the collection, Canterbury Cathedral, that is grateful to Hornby for its exemplary commitment to East Kent. A wide variety of schools, community organisations and charities have benefited from this Chamber member’s patronage. As one American conglomerate departs from Sandwich, we should perhaps learn to appreciate more the contribution being made to our local economy and to our in-bound tourism sector by this famous British brand.
6. Visit to Copy Shop
7. Chamber Planning Symposium
Recent decisions by the Thanet District Council Planning Committee have been the subject of much concern among local companies looking to attract inward investors or to expand their business. Chamber Co-President, Roger Gale MP, made his position clear with customary decisiveness in his popular Roger’s Views. Although not a golfer himself, he understands how important it is to support the development of leisure facilities in Thanet where the appropriate environmental concerns are addressed and the transport links are in place, see http://www.rogergale.com/content_manager/page.php?ID=103213&dbc=0a245c51e92fe251a3ea49ec1dbbdcae. The rejection of the Golf Academy has caused some potential investors to turn their thoughts towards locations which offer a more welcome reception. With the words of the North Thanet MP firmly in mind, the August Chamber Planning Symposium brought together some of the key figures involved in supporting more business-friendly policies in Thanet. ‘Planning delayed is planning denied’ was a phrase that often occurred in the discussions that united local companies, land owners and surveyors in Thanet. Submissions from frustrated investors highlighted the need for a more enlightened planning regime along the lines of neighbouring councils where creating jobs and opportunities for school leavers take greater precedence in planning decisions.
8. Live Theatre
Forget the video. Switch off the telly. Leave your iPod at home and get out to the theatre. That must be the message from two of our Chamber members who offer live theatre for your entertainment. Michael Wheatley-Ward and his team at the Sarah Thorne Theatre Club in Broadstairs report a 20% increase in bookings this year for its Summer Repertory programme; a great result, Michael, of which Andrew Lloyd Webber and Bill Kenwright would have been proud. Coming up on the weekend of 17th and 18th September 2011 is a production of Dick Barton Special Agent when thehero of the BBC’s 1940s radio meets his arch enemies, Baron Scarheart and Marta Heartburn. Just like a day in the office? Give the theatre a call and find out, tel: 0845 262 6263 between 1000 hrs and 1400 hrs. The much-loved Theatre Royal in Margate is the venue for a production of West Side Story which opens on Wednesday of this week and has an extra afternoon performance on its final day, Saturday 10th September 2011. Billed as “an unforgettable tale of young love set against a backdrop of 1950s American gang culture”, the show offers dancing and singing to warm the coldest heart. Invite your stern aunty and see the miraculous change at your next birthday. Make sure you book first, tel: 0845 130 1786.
9. News From Dover
We are grateful to Howard Holt, formerly Head of Corporate Affairs at Dover Harbour Board and now head of his own maritime consultancy, Seeports. Howard has focused attention on the campaign by the UK Cruise Ports Alliance to uphold the conditions of a £20 million public grant to Liverpool to build the City of Liverpool Cruise Terminal (CLTC). A condition of the funding from the EU and the British tax payer was that CTLC would not operate as a turnaround port, i.e. where cruise ships start and end their journeys, but would be a port of call. It is understandable that the ports operator at Liverpool, Peel Ports, together with Liverpool City Council should seek to change the conditions of the funding. It is very much in their interests for this to happen. But, in these times of public sector cuts, it is difficult to accept that the shareholders of Peel Ports should receive such a gift when deprived areas of our community in East Kent suffer. The offer to repay £5 million of the funding over 15 years is somewhat derisory. How many companies can borrow £20 million and pay back just a quarter over such a long period? The government rejected a previous attempt in 2009 with the words: “To allow the change of use would have an unfair and adverse effect on competition with other cruise terminals”. Businesses in and around the top two UK cruise terminals, Southampton and Dover, are following events closely. A petition has been raised at http://www.petitionbuzz.com/petitions/ukcpa. The issue is likely to feature in next week’s television and radio news. In our view, it is unlikely that the Treasury will sanction the dodgy financial dossier being put forward by Liverpool. This is not a case of “We can work it out”. The government may well decide that Peel Ports should pay back the full £20 million of development capital rather than allow it to divert custom unfairly from its Southern competitors. The view from this corner of England is that the Treasury should follow the advice of those most famous Liverpudlians and just “Let it be”.
10. Empty Rates
Owners of commercial property in our area will be interested in a useful overview of the current provisions of the Rating (Empty Properties) Act 2007 which can be added to the extensive documentation produced by this Chamber over the past four years. Written by Charles Partridge of Lambert Smith Hampton, which has 27 offices in England, the article quotes chapter and verse on business rates liability and changes in the thresholds for rate relief, see www.estatesgazette.com/tenant-advice/business-rates/relief-for-businesses/. We understand from an article dated today by Nick Whitton of the Estates Gazette that: “The latest CLG figures also show that there are now 269,000 non-domestic empty properties in the UK - equivalent to 16% of the country's total stock.”
11. A Sign Of The Times
We have often commented on the curious signs that seem to flank our everyday movements as we travel around East Kent and beyond. In the past, Chamber members have generously sent their own particular favourites. We very much welcome further contributions. Here is the latest offering from one Chamber member who recently took his first trip on the High Speed train service from London St Pancras. “When wandering through this magnificent station, a picture of modernity in a 19th century frame, I noticed a sign on the escalator between the East Midlands platforms (1-10) which go down to the underground gallery. If any of you are ever there, please could you send me a photo of it. It reads ‘Stand on the right and walk on the left’. I tried this and fell over. So much for health and safety.” He does have a point, doesn’t he?
© David Foley, September 2011