Hats off to Kathy Bailes and the Isle of Thanet News for revealing that the Council is holding a daytime meeting on Monday 9th October to discuss and approve the East Kent Regeneration Board’s (EKRB) document the East Kent Growth Framework. This is the document which includes a £multi-million funding bid to expand and industrialise Ramsgate Port which I blogged about a few days ago. Here’s the link.
Monday's meeting is a Cabinet and Corporate Management meeting which are always held in secret with no admission to the press or public. This is outrageous and massively undemocratic and speaks volumes about the attitudes of senior politicians and managers towards the public whom they to claim serve and represent. Dover District Council when discussing the same report on 4th September did so at an open meeting to which the press and public were free to attend and film it if they so wished.
If Dover councillors and officers were happy to discuss the document in public why have senior councillors and officers in Thanet decided to discuss it in secret in a bunker at Cecil Square? Is it because they know that by approving the report they are approving plans for Ramsgate Port which most people in the town don’t want.? Is because that by approving the plans they will be approving proposals which are likely to cause dangerous levels of pollution which could damage the health and well-being Ramsgate residents? Is it because by approving the document they will be approving a development which could threaten to seriously damage Ramsgate’s tourist industry?
Whatever the answer might be, its totally unacceptable for a supposedly democratic organisation such as a local council, to keep secret from its citizens plans and proposals which will have a massive impact on their lives. Surely instead of approving these plans and proposals in secret they should be openly and transparently consulting with Ramsgate residents to seek their views and ideas about the future of the Port.
As you will know from my previous blog articles I have been trying to get to the bottom of what Thanet Council might be planning for Ramsgate Port for a long time. My efforts have been stone-walled at virtually every turn by a Council more suited to operating in North Korea than in a modern, 21st century, democratic state. In the past month I have submitted 2 Freedom of Information Requests about the Council's plans for the Port. Here they are –
Dear Thanet Council
I understand Thanet District Council has prepared plans to improve, modernise and expand the Port Ramsgate and that these plans have been shared with the East Kent Regeneration Board and other organisations. Please provide me with a copy of these plans and all supporting and related documents.
The works to expand the Port of Ramsgate will have a significant impact upon the environment. Please provide me with a copy of the environmental impact assessment, or any other environmental evaluation the council may have carried out in relation to its plans to improve, modernise and expand the Port of Ramsgate.
Dear Thanet Council
According to an article in the press this week Thanet Council has issued a statement saying that it "has been in discussions with several interested parties, both in the UK and on the continent" about the restoration of ferry and/ or other shipping services at the port of Ramsgate. Please tell me -
1. the number and names of these interested parties and their locations by country 2. the number of meetings held with each of these interested companies. 3. the dates of the meetings held with these interested parties.4. the type of services each of the interest parties wish to operate e.g passenger ferry service, freight ferry service, freight and passenger service, other type of shipping service e.g. refuse/ waste, aggregate/ dredging. 5. whether or not discussions are still on-going with some, or all, of the interested parties and the names and/or number of those parties still involved in on-going discussion with the Council
Both requests were rejected by Thanet Council on grounds which I believe to be spurious, unjustifiable andunfair. I will be appealing to the Information Commissioner and am confident that Thanet Council will be ordered to release the information.
Monday’s closed meeting and the unjustifiable rejection of Freedom of Information request are but the latest incidents in a long and shameful history of secrecy surrounding decision-making about the Port of Ramsgate. Here’s a list of the Council's secretive Port dealings and dirty deeds. It should not be allowed to continue!