Thanet. It's in Kent which itself is just south of London. Here in this sleepy and largely mismanaged corner of the UK a storm is brewing.
Something called the China Gateway is being proposed. Allegedly the local district council (TDC) are invested in it as are county council (KCC) but it is a privately run venture backed with borrowed money to convert farm land into a warehouse site for Chinese companies.
The two big players are EKO LLP which is a project funded and run by the County and District councils and CGP the private firm that will make most of the money. This has raised more questions than answers and local bloggers are wondering if the authorities are able to keep interests separate. More interesting the company was established only to obtain the Thanet site (and one other) and obtain planning permission on it. If the planning permission fails the company goes bust.
But this build were it to go ahead will bring little or no work to the area. Nor will it bring inward investment from the building work and yet there is strong favour at all official levels. Meanwhile the pubic have an altogether different view.
The proposals involve turning 175 acres of countryside into a huge warehousing development for Chinese electronics on Manston business park.
To start with this project will be housed on top of the islands drinking water. People are upset about this. All the same the project leaders are trying their hardest to not spend money to protect the water supply.
There is a suggestion of increased flooding risk which itself threatens the water supply for the 130,000 people that live there.
A criminal investigation is under way because lost documents that turned up in a TESCO carrier bag show that councillors may have lied bout funding for trips to China. (Indeed other scrutiny suggest other minor misdeeds in this case indicating people not being honest). Word is that local newspapers refused to touch a story that hurt their biggest paying advertiser (the local council). So poor was the local paper's handling of the story that it led to an Assistant Editor at the Telegraph Media Group in London declaring journalism dead in Thanet but for a few blogs in quite earthy language on his blog.
Planning information is still being withheld although public opion is yet to deicide if this is incompetence or deliberate corruption. Vital reports seem to be missing. This is from a local planning committee that is no stranger to suggestions of misdeeds.
The roads can not handle the traffic:
China Gateway has over 4,000 car parking spaces and 566 HGV parking spaces so they obviously expect considerable extra traffic, the airport has capacity for 400,000 tonnes of freight and 1,000,000 passengers per year, they will have to invent a new word gridlock doesn’t get anywhere near it. says Local Businessman, Michael Child.
Local environmental groups are worried
The Kent branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England is against plans for a large industrial estate at Manston, which it believes will eventually expand and encroach on the countryside. says Kent News. Indeed many think it may already be too late after the hugely disruptive "Thanet Earth" project slipped though almost unnoticed only to start causing harm that was somehow not reported anywhere before.
Even Private Eye had a pop at our council over the Tesco Carrier bag mess. Yet despite all signs of back handers and misdeeds (not least of which is the failing to inform the public properly about planning) things continue apace.
Unsurprisingly it was a bit cramped in the hall when a local film maker Christine Tongue called a public meeting on the subject. Even non bloggers are getting a word in and that word is largely "no thanks".
Planning stories like this happen every day in every part of the world. Many go unnoticed by the press and when the press do notice they often say nothing because they don't want to offend the biggest source of money. What will scare you is that just 30% of the people voted in the last election and the suggestion sit that the current power in Thanet was put there by just 18% of the people or 23,500 people which is about the size one would expect for the political party's paid up membership (and their friends and family).
The budget in Thanet is in and it shows that even if those on benefits are treated most roughly the council will have a hard time covering the over spend. The truth is that the local council is not skilled enough to run the area - councillors from other councils point at Thanet's council and laugh. Yet even in more able districts of the UK the story is similar - businesses and authorities silently getting on with developments that any right minded local would oppose.
So what's the answer?
The story of the Tesco carrier bag was broken because a blogger was handed what the paper's refused to touch. Even the Assistant Editor at the Telegraph Media Group in London suggests in his blog that the blog format is the only way forward. Informed and insightful local blogging could be the only power on earth able to slow down the damage the current system is doing. It costs nothing but a little time to blog and you area needs you.
Please note I blog about Thanet but much of my information is sourced from other blogs and news sites and is only as accurate as my sources. I add this now because one or two of Thanet's rich types have got a bit trigger happy with the legal team, as it were.