Gales View (September 24th 2008)
Out canvassing with Jean Law at the weekend I met a lady who had just come back from a holiday on the West Country "Riviera". "I am", she said "so glad to be back. Herne Bay is such a lovely town and you don't really realise just how lucky you are to live here until you go somewhere else"! She is, of course, absolutely right. Herne Bay is a lovely town and I believe that it is poised to get still better.
What is now popularly known as the "John Law Youth Centre" on Parkside is nearing completion and, when finished, will provide a superb and I hope well-used facility for the young people of the town. It is a shining example of what can be achieved when our representatives at County Hall and the City Council (with, sometimes, a gentle shove from parliament!) pull together. It is also just the beginning.
Plans are well advanced for the further re-furbishment and upgrading of the Memorial Park and for the street scene in the town. We are all determined to end the separations between the seafront and the main retail streets of the town and, as part of the process, to reinvigorate the shopping offer that has to be the heart and life of any community such as ours. (I am no fan of the Tesco Metro proposal for Canterbury Road because I see horrendous parking and delivery problems generated by it - but a similar store in the town centre would be a different and much more welcome investment).
The City Council has put together an area action plan that is designed to take Herne Bay forward positively into the future and it is a sadness that that plan has been delayed by a government moving of the goalposts. Proposals that should have been well on the way to implementation have been put on hold while the Department for Communities and Local Government engages in a further round of bureaucracy. When I put this concern in writing to the Minister he replied telling me that his policy would actually speed up the process of approval of the plan. The City Council, having seen that letter and consulted with the Government Office of the South East have confirmed that Whitehall has just added a further twelve months to the period of time before the Area Action Plan is finally signed off and ready to roll. That is not good news.
Nevertheless, there is much that can and will be achieved in the meantime by County and City Councillors working with the fullest support of Julian Brazier and myself to ensure that the very many people living on the City District Coastal strip benefit fully from the opportunities that, notwithstanding the credit crunch, are still there to be seized. What none of us is prepared to do is see our future squandered by those who say that "it will never happen here" and are seemingly determined to preserve our communities in aspic!